Wow - what an experience!! Our good friends over at Expedition Old-Growth recently helped us ascend, measure, and document the tallest Sitka spruce tree in Mossome Grove near Port Renfrew! This incredible tree, which measures over 10ft wide at the base, came in at 246.5ft (75m) tall - as tall as a 23 story building! Its huge trunk splits in two about a third of the way up as well, creating two impressive and towering stems. Add in the mosses, ferns, and lichens and it was a beauty to behold! The experience of being high up in these ancient trees is virtually indescribable. Magical, exhilarating, and humbling might be a start. If this looks cool to you, be sure to check out www.expeditionoldgrowth.com and see when they're leading their next public tours. And while you're at it, be sure to ask the NDP government to implement old-growth protection policies that ensure places like this remain standing for generations to come: www.ancientforestalliance.org/send-a-message
In September of 2018, I spent 3 weeks in the Great Bear Rainforest working as a photographer & naturalist aboard a ship called the Maple Leaf. The Great Bear stretches along BC’s central and north coast and is part of the largest temperate rainforest in the world - 85% of which is now off limits to logging. From whales to wolves, bears to eagles, to waterfalls and tall granite walls, the region is breathtaking. Needless to say I took a few photos and trying to pick my favourites out of a folder of over 3000 has been a bit of a challenge but here are some of the highlights from my first 8 day trip. A shout out to the amazing crew of the Maple Leaf and all the great people we met along the way! Trip 2 coming soon..
Gear: Canon 5D MKIV, 15mm f2.8, 16-35mm f4 IS, 35mm 1.4 II, 24-70mm f4 IS, 100-400 IS L II.
2018 shaped up to be yet another busy and exciting year with lots of adventures into new and unique areas. It also saw the release of an award-winning documentary film titled Anthropocene: The Human Epoch that I assisted on, a museum exhibit by Ed Burtynsky and book by Harley Rustad featuring Big Lonely Doug, and media coverage on the old-growth issue across the country and around the world. The highlight experience of my year though would have to have been the three weeks that I spent working as a naturalist and photographer aboard the Maple Leaf in the Great Bear Rainforest. The Great Bear stretches along BC’s central and north coast and is part of the largest temperate rainforest in the world. From whales to wolves, bears to eagles, and waterfalls to tall granite walls, the region is beautiful beyond words. The trip also underscored to me though just how special Vancouver Island and BC’s south coast truly are. Due to the better weather and prime growing conditions, it’s right here, in our own backyard, that one can still find some of the most magnificent ancient forests harbouring some of the world’s largest trees. But unlike the Great Bear, where 85% of the old-growth forests are now off limits to logging thanks to decades of conservation efforts, the ancient forests of the south coast are now highly endangered and still being cut at an alarming rate. So throughout 2018 we again clocked thousands of kilometers on logging roads and hiked through magnificent forests and horrific clearcuts in an effort to expose both the beauty and the destruction taking place. Clearly there is still much work to be done in the coming years to ensure that these incredible ecosystems remain standing for generations to come. For now though, please enjoy what are some of my favourite photos from this past year. If you have a favourite, let me know in the comments below! For the wild, TJ.
Fine art prints of these images and more can be ordered online at: tjwatt.com/prints
Stoked to see my image (bottom left) on display as part of the augmented reality installation of Big Lonely Doug from Anthropocene at the Art Gallery of Ontario! The exhibit runs until Jan 6th, 2019. Photo: Dean Tomlinson ©Art Gallery of Ontario.
See the latest CBC article about the battle for old-growth forests in BC: Money Trees - The struggle over what’s ancient, giant, valuable and dwindling in B.C.’s coastal forests
Myself and Ken Wu spent two days with journalists, taking them on an old-growth bushwhack and through clearcuts on southern Vancouver Island.
*Take note of some additional relevant facts while reading:
1) Beyond their aesthetic appeal, old-growth forests offer a host of values that second-growth tree plantations do not. They support unique and endangered species that can't flourish in second-growth (like spotted owls and mountain caribou) and are vital for tourism, clean water, wild salmon, carbon storage, and many First Nations cultures.
2) Almost the entire western world is only logging second or third-growth forests. We can and should make the full, inevitable transition to a second-growth forest industry BEFORE the last of the unprotected old-growth is logged...and quickly.
3) The BC government’s and logging industry’s stats on the status of old-growth are deceptive. Of the 520,000 hectares of old-growth that the BC government says are off-limits to logging on Vancouver Island, less than 200,000 hectares are considered productive old-growth forests and are commercially valuable. The rest consists of stands with much smaller, stunted trees at higher elevations, on steep rocky slopes, and in bogs that lack the species richness and large trees of the productive forests. Almost 79% of the productive old-growth forests on Vancouver Island have already been logged - about 1.6 million hectares out of 2 million hectares originally. For stats and maps visit https://bit.ly/2QHJAvo
4) Independent, family operated mills are not representative of the coastal forest industry. Many have been forced to close due to increases in log exports, corporate concentration, and the depletion of the biggest, best, accessible stands of ancient trees over the past 20 years. Western Forest Products, Island Timberlands, TimberWest, Teal-Jones…these are overwhelmingly the companies responsible for the vast majority of the cut on Vancouver Island.
5) The “forestry workers who want jobs vs. environmentalists who love big trees” is largely a tired old division of the 1980’s and 90’s that we have worked hard as conservationists to bridge the gap on. One of the main forestry unions, the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC), representing thousands of Vancouver Island sawmill and pulp mill workers, have called for an end to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island and we’ve worked closely with forestry workers to end raw log exports, ensure a value-added second-growth forestry transition, and to save old-growth for almost two decades now.
6) Economic studies have shown that old-growth forests have a greater economic value standing than for logging when factoring in tourism, clean water and fisheries, non-timber forest products like wild mushrooms and berries, carbon value, and recreational value in southern BC. This is more true today than ever. Port Renfrew and Tofino are shining examples of communities whose economies have vastly benefited from standing, living ancient forests.
CBC Kids News: Should old-growth forests be protected? This photo gallery features some of my images of big trees and giant stumps as well.