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British Columbia Ancient Forests News
Friend of the Earth Award for Environmental Excellence in Metchosin Presented to TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance
Ancient Forest Alliance, September 12, 2013
The Metchosin municipal council has given Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) campaigner and photographer TJ Watt official recognition for his exceptional contribution towards environmental sustainability. Watt is the recipient of the 2013 “Friend of the Earth” Award, an environmental award presented each year for over a decade to a Metchosin resident whose contribution towards conserving the province’s natural beauty has been particularly outstanding. The award was presented by Metchosin councillor Moralea Milne on Sunday during the annual Metchosin Day festival.
Watt, 29, grew up in Metchosin and has explored the forested hills, valleys, and old-growth trees throughout the municipality and much of Vancouver Island over the years.
In 2010 Watt helped co-found the Ancient Forest Alliance and currently works as the organization’s campaigner and photographer. He is particularly renowned for his spectacular photos of BC’s old-growth forests and biggest trees, used to raise public awareness for the AFA’s conservation campaigns, and which have been reprinted in hundreds of publications – magazines, books, newspapers and websites. See some of Watt’s photos at: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/galleries.php and at: http://www.utopiaphoto.ca/
"Metchosin is proud to recognise TJ Watt with the Friend of the Earth Award, for his tireless commitment to protecting our ancient forests. We are inspired by his astounding photos of BC's iconic big trees and heartened by his enthusiasm and determination. We know he will continue to ignite a passion for our natural areas through his art and his pivotal role with the Ancient Forest Alliance,” stated councillor Moralea Milne.
“Metchosin is a community filled with many eco-minded folks doing great things, so it’s humbling to receive the 2013 Friend of the Earth Award, and I thank Moralea Milne and the Metchosin municipal council for the honour. I hold a deep love and respect for the natural environments of Vancouver Island, much of which stems from being raised in a town where those values are not only encouraged but celebrated,” Watt notes. “It has fuelled my passion to do all that I can to protect the unique and special places that we still have left before it’s too late. We live in the most beautiful place on Earth but it’s up to every one of us to keep it that way.”
Of particular note, Watt’s haunting 2010 photo (see http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/pic.php?pID=158) of a clearcut on Vancouver Island of a former old-growth forest near the town of Port Renfrew has drawn numerous accolades and won several awards. Watt’s photo won 2nd place in the 2012 International Conservation Photography awards for the Natural Environment at Risk category, 1st place for Outdoor Photography Canada magazine’s 2011 award for Human Impact on the Environment, was featured on the front cover of the Academy-award nominated documentary “If A Tree Falls”, and was also used in a display in the Montreal Biosphere Museum.
Watt is also renowned for locating and successfully campaigning to protect the Avatar Grove (see http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=6), a stand of exceptionally grand old-growth redcedars and Douglas-fir trees near Port Renfrew that were slated to fall in 2010. After an intense two year campaign spearheaded by the Ancient Forest Alliance in conjunction with the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, the Avatar Grove was designated off-limits to logging as an Old-Growth Management Area in early 2012. Thousands of tourists from around the world have flocked to see the magnificent trees of the Avatar Grove, and Watt is currently coordinating a boardwalk construction project in the Avatar Grove.
“With thousands of hectares of old-growth forests still being logged each year in BC, often in remote coastal valleys away from public scrutiny, it has become my mission to help act as the eyes and the ears of the woods. That is, I work to show both the beauty and destruction of endangered forest ecosystems by sharing as many powerful and awareness-raising images with the public as possible,” states Watt. “Most British Columbians treasure the fact that some of the world’s very last ancient temperate rainforests are found right here in our backyard. They are shocked and dismayed to find out that in 2013, our provincial government still allows the logging of thousand year old trees while contending that they are not endangered.”
Watt continues to work for the Ancient Forest Alliance exploring endangered groves and clearcuts, taking photos, guiding hikes, giving slideshows, organizing protests, and writing educational materials.
Past winners of Metchosin’s Friend of the Earth award have included Dr. Andy MacKinnon, forest ecologist and author of many field guides to native and medicinal plants of BC and Canada, and Garry Fletcher, for his role in protecting Race Rocks, an extremely biologically diverse marine area.
The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC Liberal government to protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests, ensure the sustainable logging of second-growth forests, and to ban raw log exports to foreign mills.