I'm excited to share the new documentary Giant Tree Hunters about the efforts to find and protect Canada's largest trees and grandest old-growth temperate rainforests on Vancouver Island! The film features the activities of Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners Ken Wu and myself; forest ecologists Dr. Andy MacKinnon and Dr. Sally Aitken of the BC Big Tree Registry; and tree climbers Matthew Beatty and Damien Carre of Expedition Old Growth. It was produced by Nootka St. Film Company for Telus Optik TV. Huge thanks to everyone who brought this project to life!
May the forest be with you :)
Last week I finally made the 3km trek to Payzant Creek along the Juan De Fuca Trail near Port Renfrew. Nestled in a beautiful patch of old-growth forest, a series of small waterfalls flow through the sculpted sandstone creek. Time spent alone in hidden pockets of nature like this are food for the mind and soul. I love how the bubbles spiraling in an eddy on the left showed up in the photo as well. Click here to order a print of this image.
In his new 8 minute documentary titled No Degree of Scarcity, renowned US filmmaker Joe Callander highlights Big Lonely Doug and old-growth logging on Vancouver Island. Joe came to the island for a brief stint and followed myself and Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance through the clearcut around Big Lonely Doug by Edinburgh Mountain and to the Walbran Valley. He also spoke with Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce president Dan Hager about old-growth forests and the local economy. The video includes some of my photography and drone footage as well. Thanks to Joe for taking this time to cover this story. You can see more of his films here.
Today marks the anniversary of the protection of the Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew! In February 2012, after a 2-year campaign spearheaded by the Ancient Forest Alliance with support from the public, the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce and the local business community, this magnificent ancient forest was declared off-limits to logging through an Old-Growth Management Area. This was an incredible moment as shortly after I first came across the area in 2009 during a big tree expedition, it was flagged and marked for logging by Teal Jones.
The Ancient Forest Alliance began construction of the Avatar Grove Boardwalk in 2013 in order to protect the tree roots and understory vegetation from foot traffic, enhance visitor access and safety, and support the local eco-tourism economy. It's been an inspiration to lead this project and connect with the efforts of hundreds of volunteers who've worked long and hard to bring the boardwalk to life.
Avatar Grove has since become a catalyst helping to shape the fate of endangered old-growth forests across BC. Several Chambers of Commerce, led by the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce and culminating in May 2016 with the BC Chamber of Commerce, have called on the province to increase the protection of BC's old-growth forests to support the economy.
Unfortunately, damage to the Avatar Grove Boardwalk due to hurricane-force winds in an October 2016 storm has delayed the completion launch of the Avatar Grove Boardwalk until this spring. Support is still required to fully complete the boardwalk with these necessary repairs - please volunteer or donate if you can to help us complete this important project! https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/boardwalk-donation.php
2010 seems like a long time ago now but there was very real a time where the future of Avatar Grove remained highly uncertain. Below are a few old photos from when the grove was first surveyed for logging by Teal Jones in that same year. With the paint faded and the flagging tape mostly gone from the trees today, many visitors are unaware of the area's troubled past. These images help remind me to remain grateful each time I visit that we could have lost this irreplaceable forest.
I've been a little obsessed with watching the Anna's hummingbirds go about their day in my backyard this past year. We've recently had a lot of snow and cold weather here on Vancouver Island but these little guys manage to stick it out! Since the snow was supposed to melt by tomorrow, I decided I would try to capture a shot of a male with some snowflakes around him. It's really hard to get close enough without scaring them though so I made a makeshift blind out of a tent fly and it actually worked! I'd love to try perfecting this technique, especially if it snows again. I would start by making the blind more comfortable to sit in that's for sure! I have profound respect for photographers who have logged days, weeks, even months sitting stationary in a blind, muscles cramping in uncomfortable positions waiting for the perfect shot. It's difficult on so many levels but well worth the effort in the end!
In what is the largest leap forward in old-growth forest protection on Vancouver Island in decades, the Ahousaht First Nation band recently announced their land use plan vision that prohibits industrial logging, mining, and oil and gas development in 82% of their 170,000 hectare territory while supporting sustainable economic development in selected areas. Their territory in Clayoquot Sound near Tofino is home to the largest tracts of old-growth forests of any Vancouver Island band. I'm deeply grateful for the incredible leadership shown by the members of this community and for the hard work of the conservation organizations involved as well. Knowing that wild places like the Sydney Valley (pictured above) have finally been declared safe is an amazing feeling. It's nice to have some good news every once and a while.
- Ahousaht First Nation's press release with maps: www.mhssahousaht.ca/news/press-release-ahousaht-land-use-vision
- STAND.earth's press release: www.stand.earth/latest/ahousaht-announcement
- DeSmog Canada article featuring my photo: www.desmog.ca/2017/01/27/first-nation-just-banned-industrial-logging-and-mining-vancouver-island-territory
- Times Colonist news article: www.timescolonist.com/business/island-first-nation-bans-mining-and-clearcutting-1.9279987