Endangered Upper Walbran Valley - Photos & News Coverage

Anyone who has been to the Upper Walbran Valley knows it is a truly exceptional place. At the heart of the valley lies the largest contiguous tract of unprotected, lowland old-growth forest left outside of parks on southern Vancouver Island; which includes the Castle Grove and the Central Walbran Ancient Forest. I recently visited the area to photograph signs of new potential logging plans in the core area and the amazing forest that is threatened there. Subsequent to the trip I wrote a blog for Huffington Post British Columbia which they just featured on the front page on their website (above)!

To read the story, see photos, and learn more, please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tj-watt/not-all-is-well-bc-woods_b_6201668.html

We also received news coverage on the issue from other major news sources:

And here are a few short clips I filmed while exploring the at-risk forest with my partner Jackie:

It's time to see this jewel of nature saved once and for all!

Autumn Colours Near Lake Cowichan

Autumn, with its rich oranges and yellows, is a beautiful time to be outdoors in many different parts of the world. Here in British Columbia however, in a land where evergreen trees tend to dominate our forests, one has to look a bit harder to find areas bursting the colours we so closely associate with the season. So on an overcast weekend in October, my partner and I went exploring around the creeks and rivers near Lake Cowichan on southern Vancouver Island to find just that. In this region you'll mostly come across younger stands of bigleaf maples and red alders that have grown back after decades of logging but in some places it's still possible to come across small pockets of old-growth deciduous trees. These rare, gentle giants are typically covered from root to crown in thick layers of mosses and licorice ferns, which stand out even more when the leaves have fallen off the trees. Below are a few images from our colour-filled trip. Where are your favourite places to go hunting for Fall colours on the Island or around BC?

Honourable Mention in 'Adventure' - 2014 BC Magazine Photo Contest

Happy to learn that I received an Honourable Mention in the Adventure category of British Columbia Magazine's 2014 Photo Contest. This was my first time photographing mountain biking, making it a fun, fast-paced challenge, and I was stoked to come out with some decent images. After shooting a lot of skateboarding in the past however, there were thankfully some transferable techniques that helped make it a success. Big thanks to the talented riders who let me chase them on foot down hills and through the forest, asking them to fly off cliffs in near darkness while I blinded them with my flash! Congrats to the other winners as well :)

Thanksgiving Weekend

Just returned from two days exploring and documenting unprotected old-growth forests in the Port Alberni region. Shot this photo of my friend Torrance crossing a log over a gorgeous creek during one of our rugged valley treks. This weekend I am most thankful for the fact that there are still a few places left on Vancouver Island where one can go and find themselves in unspoiled nature. In many cases however, the future of said places are at risk. That is why I am also very thankful for the amazing groups of people that are working tirelessly to protect them. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope you are enjoying both your foods and your forests. TJ.

Portrait for Canadian Wildlife

It was great to have the opportunity to meet and photograph biologist Stan Orchard for a recent article in Canadian Wildlife magazine. Stan has been working tirelessly to eradicate the invasive American bullfrog from Vancouver Island as it spreads and takes over the habitat of many native species. A lack of government funding and the sheer number of frogs make for a difficult task but Stan has pioneered his own unique and successful method for capturing them. To learn more, grab the issue of Canadian Wildlife or visit Stan's website, Bullfrog Control.

New Old-Growth Logging Images From Port Renfrew Region

Last week I took a long and rough drive up and around the Gordon River Valley and Braden Creek areas near Port Renfrew on southern Vancouver Island. It's been a year or so since I'd driven the same loop and I was curious of what had changed. Sadly, but not to my greatest surprise, many of the old-growth areas I previously spotted were now logged or roaded. The clearcuts continue to extend higher and higher up the steep mountainsides as industry pushes towards the end of this precious resource, leaving barren landscapes and tree plantations in its wake. Here are a few images from my trip.

Blue Heron at Sunrise

I was wide awake this morning so I decided to try and catch sunrise by the ocean in Oak Bay. In the end, the low clouds on the horizon blocked the sun from spreading much color but I did get to share the beautiful view with a blue heron. A great way to start the day :)

The BC Big Tree Registry is Now Online - Submissions Welcomed!

Exciting news! The BC Big Tree Registry, which aims to document the province's largest trees via public submissions, has been re-launched by the UBC Faculty of Forestry online. See their press release here. Any member of the public can become a nominator and make submissions through the online registry here: http://bcbigtree.ca/  More information about the registry and how to properly measure trees can also be found here: http://bigtrees.forestry.ubc.ca/ 

I just had my first nomination accepted - Big Lonely Doug, Canada's second largest Douglas-fir tree (ID#386), which we sadly came across in a clearcut near Port Renfrew in 2012. I'm excited at the prospect though of nominating many more giant trees as I stumble upon them in the woods now that the submission process has been digitized. In the past, the database was all on paper and only included the top 10 trees for each species, whereas now all forest giants can be cataloged. Though the registry affords the trees no legal protection, it should help to reignite interest in these increasingly rare and exceptional specimens and inspire folks to get out into the woods to find new hidden treasures. A hopeful spinoff from this is raised awareness of the threats still facing our endangered old-growth forests and more pressure on the BC government to protect them from logging - especially in the high productivity areas where the biggest trees are found and the forests are most threatened. See maps here.

The news media did a great job covering the re-launch and all outlets included a selection of my big tree photos in their articles which was cool to see. The Huffington Post ran an huge photo gallery with over 50 of my images!

With big trees in mind, I encourage everyone to grab their boots, break out their maps, and see what hidden giants they can find in their neck of the woods. Remember to always leave a trip plan with a responsible friend and pack the necessary first aid & outdoor survival equipment. Happy tree hunting!

You just never know what you might find when exploring. I came across this giant burly western redcedar tree while on a solo bushwhack in the Gordon River Valley outside of Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island in 2012.