Get ready to visit the world of Avatar — for real.
On Sunday, March 28, the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) is taking volunteers, community members, media and anyone interested to visit Vancouver Island’s own “Avatar Grove,” a special old-growth forest located near Port Renfrew.
The grove, formally known as Tree Farm License (TFL) 46, picked up media hype for being one of the only untouched resources left in North America. Because of its “spectacular and accessible” newly-discovered old-growth red cedars and Douglas firs, the site has been named after the magical environment of the 2009 hit film Avatar.
Yet the site has come under recent attention as some of the trees have been freshly marked for logging. Now, AFA hopes some untraced exposure will help keep this resource protected for generations to come, as they prepare to compete with a Surrey-based logging company and the provincial government.
“There has been logging around Avatar Grove, which has left the surrounding area as second growth now. Yet the grove itself has remained untouched. It’s a little gem out in the middle of Port Renfrew left behind,” said Katrina Andres, operations director with AFA. “One of our missions is to expose wilderness areas to people who would never be able to see them on their own. It can be so special.”
AFA is a new B.C. organization “working to protect the endangered old-growth forests of B.C. and to ensure sustainable forestry jobs in the province,” states their website.
The group was created this past January by former Western Canada Wilderness Committee activist Ken Wu and others.
Andres says that, while the Wilderness Committee was restricted by its “charitable organization” status, AFA splintered off as a non-profit — meaning it has the freedom to speak out against the governmental moves it disagrees with.
“Because we’re a non-profit society, not a charity, we have freedom that the Wilderness Committee lacked,” Andres said. “For example, the Liberal government does not have good policies on old-growth forest development, so we can finally come straight out and say that.”
The group has been busy since its inception. For those who want to get more involved with AFA, the organization is holding the “Rally for Ancient Forests and Forestry Jobs” at 12 noon on Saturday, March 27.
While the rally is in Vancouver by Canada Place, the group hopes many will come out to “send a message to the B.C. Liberal government that they need to protect our ancient forests, ensure the sustainable logging of second-growth forests and ban raw log exports to protect forestry jobs.”
If support is in question, the group’s nearly 7,000 Facebook members could be a good indication that people really do care. And while Sunday’s road trip is a RSVP-only event, AFA has almost 50 people signed up so far. The group plans to meet at UVic by Cinecenta early morning Sunday, then make the two-and-a-half-hour trek out to Port Renfrew. After the day hike, they plan on returning to campus by about 5:30 p.m.
“It’s great to care about the forest missions, but it’s definitely important for people to get out there and see real old-growth forest for themselves,” said Andres. “Nothing gives you the perspective that truly being out there and seeing it can. It’s incredible. Until you see those trees marked down, nothing can hit you quite so hard.”
To join the Avatar voyage, contact Andres at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the group, visit ancientforestalliance.org or search for them on Facebook.