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Posted July 9, 2010

Ancient Forest Alliance supports MP Keith Martinís proposal to expand Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to include Canadaís grandest old-growth forests

Martin joined Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners on a tour through the Avatar Grove and nearby clearcuts by Port Renfrew

Media Release, July 8, 2010

Ancient Forest Alliance supports MP Keith Martinís proposal to expand Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to include Canadaís grandest old-growth forests
Click for larger image

Liberal MP Keith Martin stands beside "Canada's Gnarliest Tree" in the logging-threatend Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew. Dr. Martin hopes to see Island old-growth forests such as this preserved with an expansion of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Photo by TJ Watt

Port Renfrew, BC – The Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) is supporting Member of Parliament (Esquimalt- Juan de Fuca) Keith Martin’s proposal to extend Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s boundaries to protect adjacent endangered forests, including the grandest stands of old-growth trees in Canada. Last week Martin joined Ancient Forest Alliance activists TJ Watt and Brendan Harry on a guided tour through the spectacular Avatar Grove and a nearby clearcut filled with giant stumps near the national park reserve.

Last fall, Martin proposed to expand Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to protect threatened forest lands along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, in part to protect former Western Forest Products lands by Jordan River and the Juan de Fuca Trail that were threatened by development due to their removal from Tree Farm License 25. While the Capital Regional District has recently purchased the lands by Jordan River and the Sooke Potholes, other forested areas with high conservation and recreation values remain threatened in the region, particularly old-growth forests on Crown lands near Port Renfrew and Crown and private lands adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Provincial Park. Martin has expressed an interest in including such areas in his proposal, which he intends to introduce as a private members bill in the House of Commons at a future legislative session.

"These trees are some of the oldest living creatures on our planet. Cutting them down provides a short term benefit and a much larger long term loss. Ethno-tourism and eco-tours would provide for long term jobs and economic security in this area that has suffered from chronically high unemployment. We are in a race against time to save these forest giants. I am asking the provincial and federal governments to work with the forestry companies to stop this destruction of our old growth forests in the Gordon River Valley, Upper Walbran and surrounding areas," said Dr. Martin.

Located on unprotected Crown Lands less than a 15 minute drive from Port Renfrew, Avatar Grove is home to dozens of some of the South Island's largest redcedars and Douglas firs, including several trees with trunks reaching over 12 feet in diameter. Moreover, many of the cedars have incredible, alien shaped burls that helped garner the forest its blockbuster nickname. In stark contrast, an area logged in March just over 1 km away is a sprawling sea of stumps, many of which measure up to 15 feet in diameter. With most of its largest trees spray-painted and the borders marked with falling boundary and road location flagging tape, Avatar Grove is at risk of succumbing to the same fate as the neighbouring stand of giant trees.

“Southern Vancouver Island is home to Canada’s largest trees and some of the most amazing ancient forests in the world. They are also among the most endangered forests in the country,” states Brendan Harry, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner. “With only 6% of the Island’s original, productive old growth forests protected in parks, the majority of the remaining old-growth forests are found on unprotected Crown lands, making them vulnerable to logging. Sadly, these rare ecosystems continue to be destroyed by clearcut logging. The expansion of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve would be an important step forward in protecting some of these incredibly valuable, embattled ancient forests.”

Specifically, the Ancient Forest Alliance would like to see the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve expanded to include:

- Unprotected Crown lands, including the Avatar Grove and other old-growth areas in the Gordon River Valley; the Upper Walbran Valley; the Klanawa Valley; Crown lands adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Provincial Park, including the Refugee Cedar (the largest cedar within the CRD); and Canada’s largest trees, the San Juan Spruce (largest spruce in Canada) and the Red Creek Fir (largest Douglas fir in the world), found in the San Juan River Valley. If this last area is protected, the expanded national park reserve will be home to the largest trees in Canada of three different species (Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western redcedar) as the park reserve already includes the Cheewhat Cedar, Canada’s largest redcedar and largest tree (based on overall size or timber volume) in the country.

- Private lands adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Provincial Park, which would have to be purchased. Since the current Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Provincial Park is often little more than 100 meters wide and huge development pressure looms in the region in part due to the deletion of forest lands from Tree Farm License 25, expanding the protective buffer to the trail would help to maintain and insulate recreational integrity from clearcutting or subdivisions.

- Existing Provincial Parks, including the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park and Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Provincial Park which would be upgraded to national park reserve status.

“Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in BC and the province’s largest employer. Millions of tourists come to see BC’s giant trees and ancient forests, and millions more will come if they are protected and promoted, while we shift the logging industry into sustainably logging second-growth stands instead,” states TJ Watt, co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “It’s 2010 and the logging of centuries-old giant trees with trunks as wide as a living room is continuing daily in this province. The expansion of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a golden opportunity to protect some of the most charismatic and threatened ecosystems on Earth.”

Old-growth forests are extremely important for sustaining species at risk, tourism, clean water, and First Nations traditional cultures.

About 75% of the original productive old-growth forests have been logged on Vancouver Island, including 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow, according to satellite photos. Only about 6% of the Island’s original, productive old-growth forests are protected in parks.

With so little of our ancient forests remaining, the Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC government to:

- Undertake a Provincial Old-Growth Strategy that will inventory and protect old-growth forests where they are scarce (egs. Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, southern Interior, etc.).

- Ensure the sustainable logging of second-growth forests, which now constitute the vast majority of BC’s landscapes.

- End the export of raw logs in order to ensure guaranteed log supplies for local milling and value-added industries.

- Assist in the retooling and development of mills and value-added facilities to handle second-growth logs.

- Undertake new land-use planning initiatives based on First Nations land-use plans, ecosystem-based scientific assessments, and climate mitigation strategies involving forest protection.


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