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No Paradigm Shift in BC Government, But New Recognition of Public Mood for Protecting Avatar Grove and Expanding Old-Growth Protection

Ancient Forest Media Release, February 17, 2011

No Paradigm Shift in BC Government, But New Recognition of Public Mood for Protecting Avatar Grove and Expanding Old-Growth Protection
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Loggers painted a sad face with its tongue sticking out making a mockery of the old-growth devastation in the background. Upper Walbran Valley, Vancouver Island. 2010
Photo by TJ Watt


Ancient Forest Alliance plans public hike to Avatar Grove on Sunday, February 27

Forest activists reacted with amusement at comments made by the BC government and a logging industry representative in a Times Colonist article “BC looking for new ways to protect ancient trees” on Tuesday. Click here to view the article

In the article the Forests Minister Pat Bell states, “BC has more old-growth today than we’ve ever had,” and that “we are not running out of old-growth on Vancouver Island...”


“Somehow a century of industrial logging has actually increased the amount of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island, according to the BC government. Maybe the Ancient Forest Alliance should take up logging to increase the amount of old-growth forests in BC!” joked Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) executive director. “The BC government still retains its old mindset about old forests, as they’re still into their silly spin-doctoring - clearly they haven’t experienced a paradigm shift about our old-growth forests. However, the fact is this government has always maintained such nonsense - the main difference now, the new thing here, is their acknowledgement that there is a real public mood in seeing greater protection levels for our old-growth forests, including the Avatar Grove and BC’s largest trees. Of course we welcome this acknowledgement on the need to expand old-growth forest protections.”


The Ancient Forest Alliance is planning another public hike to the Avatar Grove on Sunday, February 27. More details will be posted on its website next week.


Since the Avatar Grove was located in December of 2009 by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner TJ Watt, the AFA has organized countless public hikes, slideshows, rallies, photography expeditions, letter-writing drives, and petition drives to get the area protected. There has been a torrent of local, provincial, and national media stories about the Avatar Grove, and support has snowballed to include the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, Sooke Region Tourism Association, and local elected representatives at the federal, provincial, and regional levels including Liberal MP Keith Martin, NDP MLA John Horgan, and Regional Director Mike Hicks, respectively. The Avatar Grove consists of numerous monumental ancient redcedars, some 14 feet (over 4 meters) in trunk diameter, giant Douglas firs, and a few large Sitka spruce, all of which are heavily targeted by the old-growth logging industry. “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree”, a huge redcedar with a 10 foot (3 meter) wide burl, is also found in the Avatar Grove. The area was surveyed and flagged with falling boundary and road location tape by Teal-Jones by February of 2010.  See Avatar Grove photos at:


Almost 6000 people have now viewed the Ancient Forest Alliance’s new video clip (1 minute), “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree – Save the Avatar Grove” at:


“We’ll give thanks if Bell makes good to protect the Avatar Grove. Protecting our most impressive monumental trees and ancient groves is much needed, although most importantly we need to protect old-growth ecosystems on a larger scale. Saving the cherry on top while the voracious neighbour devours the rest of the cake will still deprive our children,” states Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “The logging industry’s appetite has devoured 90% of our valley bottom ancient forests on Vancouver Island where the largest trees grow - they’ve had far more than their share. “


“There is an inevitable transition to logging only second-growth forests in southern BC as the old-growth stands run out - what we’re saying is let’s make the transition now while we still have some significant old-growth stands left,  for wildlife, tourism, the climate, and future generations. I think the majority of British Columbians would agree with that,” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer.


In Tuesday’s Times Colonist article, Rick Jeffery, president of the Coast Forest Products Association, also spin-doctored various statistics, claiming that there are more protected areas than lands available for logging (reality check:  most park lands consist of alpine rock and ice, marginal subalpine forests, and coastal bog forests, and contain a minority fraction of productive forest lands of value for logging), that most monumental stands of ancient trees are already protected (reality check: 90% of Vancouver Island’s productive old-growth forests in the valley bottoms, where the monumental stands grow, have already been logged, and a significant amount of the remainder is unprotected), and that the threat against a stand like the Avatar Grove is an exception.


“The Avatar Grove is just one example of the thousands of ancient forest stands currently under threat in BC, literally hundreds of which get clearcut each year – that’s a simple, sad fact. The difference with the Avatar Grove is that it is easy to get to and grows on gentle terrain so that large numbers of people have now seen this place. Most other endangered ancient forests are remote and difficult for the average person to get to, and thus their destruction goes unseen,” states TJ Watt, AFA explorer and photographer.


On Vancouver Island, according to satellite photos, about 75% of the original, productive old-growth forests have been logged, including 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. See “before” and “after” maps at:


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