Check out the summer issue of Explore Magazine for a feature interview I did on the topic of BC's ancient forests! The article covers the history of the Avatar Grove campaign, the economic value of standing old-growth forests, and debunks the BC government's claim that these forests are not endangered. Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce President, Dan Hager, and Spirit of the West co-owner, Rick Snowdon, share their personal experiences as tourism operators as well.
Be sure to check out Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, the latest documentary film by the award-winning creators of Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013).
The film, which had shoots in 43 locations in 20 different countries, also features scenes of Avatar Grove and old-growth logging on Vancouver Island as one of many examples of how humans are dramatically altering the natural world.
I had the amazing opportunity of guiding the crew to the big trees and big stumps around Port Renfrew over the past 2 years and it's been a great reminder that, even on a global scale, the ancient forests of BC are some of the most precious and threatened places on the planet.
The film features some of my own footage too, including recent logging in the Nahmint Valley and raw log exports in Port Alberni. For more than a decade I have looked up to renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky and I'm honoured to have worked alongside him and the rest of the talented team as well.
Read director Jennifer Baichwal's recent interview in the Times Colonist.
Below are a few behind-the-scenes snaps from our time shooting in Port Renfrew.
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.
The Fall issue of British Columbia Magazine has hit the newsstands and it includes a great feature article titled An Old-Growth Battlefield - Can We Save Our Ancient Matriarchs? by Hans Tammemagi. I spent 3 days with Hans, touring him around Port Renfrew to places like the Avatar Grove, Big Lonely Doug, Eden Grove, the San Juan Spruce, and the Central Walbran Valley. Happy to see three of my images featured in print as well! Grab a copy if you can :)
Winter is one of the most beautiful and dramatic times of the year to explore ancient forests. During a visit to the Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew last week, an enchanting layer of fog and glowing light was softly sifting through the forest. It's hard to capture that truly magic feeling one experiences in person. So find time if you can and head out into the woods to lose yourself in winter wonder.
Earlier this week I toured the Port Renfrew region with CHEK News for a video about how old-growth forest tourism at the Avatar Grove, Big Lonely Doug, and other nearby ancient stands has transformed the local economy. Dan Hager, the Chamber of Commerce president, speaks up for a Tall Tree tourism economy, while Ken Wu and myself speak about the importance of saving the remaining old-growth forests. The news clip also features some of my drone footage from the Walbran Valley!
Yesterday we took a Shaw TV reporter out to do a story on the big trees and ancient forests of the Port Renfrew area (Avatar Grove, Walbran Valley, and others) and their importance in supporting the local economy, including an interview with Dan Hager, the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce president representing 73 businesses! Here are a few pics :)