McLaughlin Ridge - Alberni Valley News

Here's a cover photo of mine in the Alberni Valley News, highlighting recent logging by Island Timberlands on McLaughlin Ridge; an old-growth forest of high ecological value near Port Alberni. Click here to read the article. The area was originally intended for protection by the provincial government as an Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) and Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA), until the province’s plans changed when it removed the lands from Tree Farm Licence 44. The removal of the lands in 2004 included the stipulation from the BC government that a follow-up agreement be developed between the company and the government to ensure the protection of McLaughlin Ridge and other intended UWR’s and WHA’s - however, both parties failed to pursue the agreement, and the lands are now being logged.  A conservation solution for these lands is needed before it's too late.

See more of my photos of logging on McLaughlin Ridge from that trip here: http://on.fb.me/1qeaXhn

Bronze in 'Trees' - Prix de la Photographie, Paris (Px3) 2014

My photo of an old-growth Douglas-fir tree in the Avatar Grove has been awarded Bronze in the professional 'Trees' category of Prix de la Photographie, Paris (Px3) 2014, "Europe's biggest and most prestigious photography competition". The effect of the photo was achieved by zooming the lens out during a slow exposure in order to capture, what I feel, is the magic of being in these ancient forests.

Honorable Mention in the Big Picture: Natural World Photography Competition

I am quite honored to learn that my image of woman sitting within a giant western redcedar stump in the Klanawa Valley has received an Honorable Mention in the 'Conservation Imagery' category of the 2014 Big Picture: Natural World Photography Competition hosted by the California Academy of Sciences. The contest, which saw 6,300 submissions and included judges from the iLCP, will spotlight the work of professional conservation photographers from 12 countries around the globe. The exhibition runs from August 1 - ­ November 2, 2014 at the California Academy of Sciences in San Fransisco, one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It's truly exciting for me every time an image from a remote area gets the chance to reach such a large audience. I love the old-growth forests of the Klanawa, where this stump was found, but they're disappearing at an alarming rate each year. Hopefully with this we move another inch closer to seeing them saved. For those curious, below is map showing the exact location of the stump on southwestern Vancouver Island.

Climbing Big Lonely Doug, Canada's Second Largest Douglas-fir Tree

Will Koomjian making the first ascent of Big Lonely Doug, Canada's second largest Douglas-fir tree.

Last month I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life - I climbed Big Lonely Doug, Canada's second largest Douglas-fir tree. See the photo gallery hereI've long dreamed to reach the canopies of these living skyscrapers, to be a part of that seemingly unreachable world which hides so many of the forests secrets. So the Ancient Forest Alliance teamed up with the Arboreal Collective, a group of professional tree climbers working to help highlight, research, and document BC's biggest trees and endangered old-growth forests. Using careful rope techniques, they go to extreme lengths to minimize any potential impact on the trees themselves. The first day was spent photographing the climbers setting the initial lines with the Big Shot sling shot and making the first-ever ascents. On the second day it was my turn to go up and WOW - what an incredibly surreal feeling! I felt like a tiny pine cone swaying in the breeze - the sheer size of the tree almost impossible to comprehend. Measuring in at 66m (216ft) tall, 12m (39ft) in circumference, and 4m (13ft) in diameter, Doug is massive. Sitting near the top, it was humbling to think for how long this gentle giant has stood the test of time watching over this valley, planting it's roots deeper day-by-day, for upwards of a thousand years. Our visit was but the briefest blip in his very long life. But looking around the tree at the clearcut and giant stumps from 2012, it was quite evident the impact that humans can have in a short period of time. 75% of Vancouver Island's productive old-growth forests have been logged including 90% of the valley bottoms. 99% of the old-growth Douglas-fir trees on BC's coast have also been logged. To help with research into these rare forests, we brought back small soil & moss samples for entomologists who will look for new species of spiders, insects, and mites. I hope that the images that from this climb and future initiatives to document the largest trees and grandest groves in BC will help to raise awareness around the world about these highly endangered ecosystems.  The BC government must act now to save our last unprotected ancient forests. 

Photo gallery: www.tjwatt.com/big-lonely-doug-climb
Video clips: www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxPlKVK8RLM

News articles: 

• AFA Media Release: Tree Climbers Scale 'Big Lonely Doug,' Canada's 2nd Largest Douglas-fir Tree, Highlighting BC's Endangered Old-Growth Forests
• Globe and Mail: Big Lonely Doug: Canada's loneliest tree still waiting on help
• Huffington Post: Tree Climbers scale Canada's 2nd Largest Douglas-Fir
• Times Colonist: Tree climbers scale Big Lonely Doug
• Metro News: Climbers scale Canada's 'Big Lonely Doug'