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British Columbia Ancient Forests News


Posted August 6, 2010

Avatar Grove, the "Cathedral Grove" of Port Renfrew, under increasing threat due to BC Government intransigence

Ministry of Forests rejects tourism's bid for Grove's protection, Ancient Forest Alliance ramping up base of supporters in preparation for battle

Media Release, August 6, 2010

Avatar Grove, the
Click for larger image

"Canada's Gnarliest Tree" as can be found in the Upper Avatar Grove.
Photo by TJ Watt

The BC Ministry of Forests and Range recent rejection of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce's and the Sooke Regional Tourism Association's request that the Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew be spared from logging (see has the Ancient Forest Alliance preparing for a ramped-up battle. The organization already has over 2000 members on its “Save the Avatar Grove” Facebook Group (!/group.php?gid=480609145246&v=wall) and 7000 members on its main Facebook Groups, and will be working to ramp-up membership in the Avatar Grove Group in preparation for a future “Ancient Forest Week of Action” of protests, events, and rallies (dates to be announced) at various BC government offices in numerous communities.

“The Avatar Grove is like the Cathedral Grove of Port Renfrew. It is the most easily accessible of the monumental, endangered old-growth stands on the South Island. If the Avatar Grove falls, Port Renfrew and southern Vancouver Island won't get another chance like this for another thousand years,” stated Brendan Harry, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner. “The BC government could quickly protect the Avatar Grove by enacting a Land Use Order that would make the area off limits to logging. The existing Old-Growth Management Area covers only a small fraction of what is a small area to begin with, and it excludes the vast majority of the largest trees.”

The Avatar Grove grows in the Gordon River Valley about a 15 minute drive from Port Renfrew, only a couple minutes past the end of a paved road, on gentle terrain. It is full of large numbers of giant, ancient redcedars and some Douglas firs, including “Canada's Gnarliest Tree", an old-growth redcedar with an enormous, contorted burl. The area is within Tree Farm License 46 and is threatened with being logged by the Teal-Jones Group. The Minister of Forests and Range states that one-fourth of the Grove is protected in an Old-Growth Management Area. The Grove enjoys widespread support, including from local Liberal MP Keith Martin (who is proposing the area's inclusion in his proposed expansion of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve), local NDP MLA John Horgan, and many businesses and community groups in Port Renfrew and Sooke.

See photos of the Avatar Grove (photos can be reprinted with credit to TJ Watt) at:!/group.php?gid=480609145246&v=photos

and in the new photogallery (along with other big tree photos from southern Vancouver Island) at:

“Why would the BC Liberal government jeopardize millions of dollars in potential tourism revenues and long-term local jobs for a few weeks of logging work for maybe half a dozen people? The vast majority of the forests on the South Island are second-growth now, they should be sustainably logging and value-adding them instead of trying to cut down the last tiny remnants of old-growth here,” stated Harry.

On Vancouver Island, there were over 2.3 million hectares of productive old-growth forests at the time of European colonization - only 600,000 hectares remain unlogged today. About 200,000 hectares of this has been protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas, while another 400,000 hectares remain unprotected. The BC government recently announced the protection of 39,000 hectares of old-growth forests on northern and central Vancouver Island, which the Ancient Forest Alliance is commending them for – however, the protections do not extend to southern Vancouver Island and still exclude 90% of the endangered ancient forests.

In percentages, about 75% of Vancouver Island's original, productive ancient forests have been logged, including 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow, and 87% of the productive ancient forests on the South Island south of Port Alberni. Less than 10% of the original, productive ancient forests on Vancouver Island are protected.

Old-growth forests are important for tourism, wildlife, the climate, clean water, and many First Nations cultures.

“We have so little old-growth forests left. The BC government needs to undertake a Provincial Old-Growth Strategy that will protect our remaining endangered ancient forests across Vancouver Island and BC, ensure the sustainable logging of second-growth forests, and end the export of raw logs to foreign mills.”

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