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.
I spent recently spent two days exploring for giant trees in the Cheewhat Lake region on southern Vancouver Island. Here is where you can find the Cheewhat Giant, Canada’s largest tree and also now the world’s largest western redcedar (20ft in diameter!). I have a personal goal of finding the new champion tree and figured this would be a good place to start looking! I didn’t end up finding it on this trip but I did see a number of exceptional cedars, including the one pictured above. There were also numerous CMT’s (culturally modified trees), including a partially finished canoe which was overgrown with plants and trees - so cool! The bushwhacking was intense and the mosquitoes were relentless but the rewards were huge. My next trip to this remote and wild landscape can’t come soon enough!
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.
Over the July 16-17 weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to join a team of professional tree climbers and a UBC research student in the Carmanah Valley and photograph their endeavors.
The aim of the tree climbing project was to assist UBC Forest and Conservation Sciences Student, Vincent Hanlon in his somatic mutation research of Sitka spruce tre DNA. The climbing team, consisting of Jamz Luce, Matthew Beatty, and Ryan Murphy, used low-impact rope techniques to access and sample the highest possible new growth points in each tree, record specific sample location data, and to measure both the sample height and ultimate tree height. Over the course of 7 days they ascended 23 trees that averaged heights of 75 meters or 250ft, with the tallest (and largest by volume) measuring in at 84 meters tall. Their skills among the tree tops and dedication to helping further conservation and research efforts is something to behold. Trees were also accurately measure for submission to the BC Big Tree Registry.
The feeling of beginning on the forest floor, slowly ascending up the towering trunk of a centuries-old tree, before reaching the upper canopy at over 250ft in the air with panoramic views of a fully intact valley is an experience that truly defies words. It's humbling and beautiful beyond imagination. I can only hope that the photos captured here do it some justice.
Thank you again to Vincent Hanlon, Jon Degner and Sally Aitkin at UBC Forestry for this rare and extraordinary opportunity and to the climbers for once again making access to this rarely-seen world possible.
Over the May 14/15 weekend, three friends and I packed the van and made the dusty four-hour drive out to the Cheewhat Lake/Carmanah Valley region to pay visit to many of the country's largest trees. Around Cheewhat Lake grows Canada's largest tree, the Cheewhat Giant, along with the 3rd, 4th, and probably more of the largest western redcedars known. Thankfully, these are protected within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. I had never visited the giant cedar at the north end of Cheewhat Lake before. It was bit of mission to get there as well as the road along Doobah Lake was quite grown in and the trailhead was nearly invisible but in the end we found it and boy was it worth it!! Such an immense tree!! The GPS coordinates for Canada's 3rd largest redcedar at the north end of Cheewhat Lake are: 48.70070, -124.75124 The trailhead is: 48.70175, -124.75104. The trail begins in second-growth before entering incredible old-growth that includes some unique culturally modified trees and ends at the lake. Near the Cheewhat Giant (GPS: 48.69395, -124.74459) we also found the remains of a half finished canoe in the forest. This forest, and the many giants it harbours, must be my favourite place on Vancouver Island.
The trip also included a visit to the breathtaking Sitka spruce groves found in the Carmanah Valley. Such a timeless place. Not far from the parking lot we also spotted an new giant cedar that was almost 40ft around! Sometimes the big trees are hiding in plain sight just waiting for people to find them. Felt great to get some bushwhacking in as well and rekindle the drive to start looking for new record size trees that may still reside in the dense rainforest landscapes of Vancouver Island! Now that the BC Big Tree Registry is online, it's also easier than ever to nominate new discoveries. See: http://bcbigtree.ca/