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B.C. chops down bid to protect 'Avatar Grove'

Judith Lavoie, Vancouver Sun, August 5, 2010

B.C. chops down bid to protect 'Avatar Grove'
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Streams wind through parts of the Avatar Grove before falling into Baird Creek. The magnificient redcedars and Douglas fir of this grove already draws hundreds of tourists to the town of Port Renfrew but is still in danger of being logged.
Photo by TJ Watt

Big trees would bring more money into Sooke and Port Renfrew than logging a unique, old-growth grove, community groups have told the provincial government.

But the province is refusing to budge from its position that sufficient old growth has already been protected in that area.

The Sooke Regional Tourism Association and Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce wrote to the province asking that the area just outside Port Renfrew, nicknamed Avatar Grove, should be saved and that the Teal-Jones Group, which has cutting rights, should be offered a replacement piece of Crown land.

"Tourism would contribute more value and benefit many more people than cutting old-growth sites located in accessible tourism development areas," tourism association president Neil Flynn said in a letter to Forests Minister Pat Bell.

But the reply from the ministry says 24 per cent of the grove is in an old-growth management area, meaning no cutting is permitted.

"I think it is important to mention that not all old-growth forests can be protected. A certain amount must be harvested to provide a viable and sustainable wood supply to the forest industry, which is an important component of the provincial economy," says the letter from the ministry's field operations staff.

Teal-Jones has not yet applied for a cutting permit in Avatar Grove, but a land swap would not be possible as the entire land base of TFL 46 is already under tenure, said company spokesman John Pichugan.

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