Another British Columbia old-growth paradise — Avatar Grove on Vancouver Island — is slated for the chopping block. Kylen Lefave wants us all to raise our voices and take action for the forests.
Just recently a friend and I decided to go on a hike one Sunday afternoon. Living on Vancouver Island we are no strangers to hiking of course; however, this hike in particular was different than any I had gone on ever before. It was an awe inspiring woodland excursion organized by the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), and the first of many excursions this year created for the sole and crucial purpose of educating and bringing more awareness to the public about the looming devastation and decimation of the last few remaining old growth rain forest treasures left on our beautiful paradise island.
Canada’s Gnarliest Tree, Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island — photo by TJ Watt
Avatar Grove, nicknamed after the block buster movie Avatar, is located off a series of long and winding logging roads and several narrow bridges over creeks and rivers near Port Renfrew, British Columbia. Avatar is an appropriate nickname, to say the least, as this grove reflects our own plight with the destructive forces threatening our pristine majestic wilderness for the sake of a growing economy.
Tragically, the shortsightedness of profit-hungry industry and governments are, not so slowly, but definitely and surely, clear cutting what remains of our unprotected ancient rainforests, not only on Vancouver Island, but also in the rest of Canada and other countries such as South America.
According to Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) statistics based on 2004 LandSat satellite images, only 13% remains of our original productive old growth forests left on the southern half of the island. Only 6% of this forest is protected in our park systems. It is so disheartening and frustrating to know that there is still so much left unprotected, at the mercy of being logged and possibly turned into tree farms. Avatar Grove is among those forests doomed to fall if we do not act now to protect it.
A giant Douglas fir (left) and gnarly red cedar (right) grow in the amazing but logging-threatened Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, BC — Photo by TJ Watt
My understanding is that AFA’s main objectives are to promote and encourage eco-tourism as a viable and sustainable industry in British Columbia by showing the public the incredible beauty of this stunningly lush green area of old growth forest that is home to some of the world’s largest and unusually shaped trees. The hikes also serve as an opportunity to educate people about sustainable logging practices of second and third growth forests in order to preserve the delicate ecosystem. This ecosystem is full of an amazingly rich biodiversity that can only live and flourish within an old growth forest. Once these old growth forests are logged, they are are destroyed forever, never to return.
Some of these trees are hundreds of years old; a few are even thought to be more than a thousand years old. We cannot replace what we so blindly destroy by merely planting new trees in their wake. Scientists have recently discovered that there are many species that live in the canopies of these giant trees that do not even exist on the forest floor. What they need to thrive and survive can only be found high up amongst the branches of the oldest and tallest of trees — a heavenly soil, if you will, created over centuries by the fallen debris of Earth’s majestic and noblest ancestral beings.
I often wonder what stories these ancient trees would have to tell us if only we could hear their tales. There are those who believe we can hear them if we remain silent enough to listen to their whispers within the wind. All I know is that when I feel stressed, or sad, or out of sorts, I flee to one of the nearby forests we are so blessed and privileged to still have here on Vancouver Island. Almost by magic, my troubled spirit feels lighter, more vibrant and full of life.
Perhaps it’s the deep breaths of fresh clean air I am inspired to inhale into my starving and deprived lungs. I feel protected and at peace and surrounded by so much “life”. The forests are the lungs of the Earth and thus deserve our reverence and our respect, for it is these forests that give us, and everything on this planet, life.
Upper Avatar Grove — Photo by TJ Watt
Cities, despite bursting with activity, feel dead in comparison. In Victoria, the largest city on Vancouver Island, we are more fortunate than most cities to live so close to not only an abundance of nature, but also to one of the most important and crucially fundamental renewable resources only healthy and vibrant forests can produce…clean air. The forests also help keep our watersheds protected and pristine; it is vital that we preserve our access to some of the freshest, cleanest drinking water in the world. Yet despite the devastating long-term effects of deforestation, we are still working diligently to pave our paradise in order to accommodate our growing population and economy.
Here in Victoria, there is a beautiful park known as Beacon Hill Park, a famous tourist attraction in our capital city. Tens of thousands of tourists every year have walked through its paths of stunning flower beds and diverse species of trees. There are even a few remaining fair sized weeping willows, red cedars and endangered Douglas firs to visit and have your picture taken with.
Sadly, in the 17 years that I have lived in this beautiful city I have seen far too many trees dying and being cut down in Beacon Hill due to illness and disease, thinning the once lush park more and more as time goes by. It breaks my heart every time I see a new stump or hear the distinct buzzing sound of a chain saw carried on the wind. The sparseness of the park is becoming more apparent with my every visit.
There is one area in particular behind the bandstand in the center of the park that is extremely haunting to me, for when you come at it from a certain angle it looks eerily like a museum exhibit — an exhibit someone might create to depict a time lost, when beautiful ancient rain forests and trees actually existed.
Whenever I walk through this area I feel an immense sadness deep within my heart; an ominous sinking feeling because I fear that one day a museum exhibit of beautifully and accurately-crafted giant fiber glass red cedars is what our future holds if we remain complacent and unaffected by what is actually happening all around us today.
When I talked about “endangered” Douglas Firs, I did not say this lightly because another tragic statistic was revealed to us on Sunday’s hike — only one percent of Vancouver Island’s old growth Douglas firs still remain standing…one percent! And yet one of the largest beings in Avatar Grove is tagged with a hint of spray paint, signifying that it is slated to be logged at a future undetermined date — this massive Douglas fir patiently awaits the order determining its fate.
Patience, I’m afraid, is a trait that the economic machine does not possess. Time is money, after all, right? The fate of Avatar Grove and so many other unprotected forests is in our hands. Nature cannot speak for itself — for its right to live and thrive — against such a hungry and destructive industry. Therefore, WE must speak for nature and advocate on her behalf, which is consequently also on our own behalf.
Too many of us see ourselves as separate from nature. I often wonder, when did we become so disconnected from our origins? We must always remember that we are not just a part of nature — we ARE nature! (read my “Life as a Human” article “(Re)connecting with Nature Reduces Stress and Awakens the Spirit” for more on this topic). And thus by idly standing by and allowing the devastation of clear cutting what little remains of our old growth rain forests to continue we are putting our most basic human rights at undeniable risk whether we choose to believe it or not…our right to clean air and clean drinking water.
It is not even remotely okay to allow this to happen. In fact, it is shear insanity. Knowing what we now know, we must do everything in our power to make better sustainable choices. Our future on this planet we call home, the only home we truly have, most definitely depends on it. And yet the clear cutting continues, and for what?
Gordon River – 13ft Stump – Circumference: 40ft Diameter: 13ft Species: Redcedar Valley — Photo by TJ Watt
Okay, here comes my rant.
Did you know that most commercial brands of toilet paper on the market in this country are still being made from old growth trees cut down within Canada? Toilet paper! There is certainly nothing “renewable” about that — it’s not even recyclable.
Is it that unrealistic to want and strive to live in a world where we are in harmony with — and have reverence and respect for — nature and all life within it, as opposed to raping and pillaging it until there is nothing left of our world but scars and concrete? Is it possible that one day in the not so distant future, if we do not mend our destructive ways, there may be a time when our museums really will showcase nostalgic exhibits of a beautiful vibrant green world that once was?
This may or may not be our future; however, what I do know is that needless destruction of our ancient forests is still going on and every minute we sit on the fence is another minute the fate of Avatar Grove may potentially be sealed and lost forever.
I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to visit and experience the endangered and majestic beauty of Avatar Grove. And if you don’t happen to live on Vancouver Island, perhaps this could be a destination of travel for your next vacation.
The more people know about and step up in our fight to protect and preserve this and many other vital ancient forests the better our chances of having our united voices heard. Perhaps then we will actually get through to our shortsighted government once and for all about how pivotal it is that we put a complete stop to clear cutting our old growth so we can fully appreciate our paradise island treasures for many generations to come.
There is power in numbers…let’s all save Avatar Grove!
BREAKING NEWS from Ancient Forest Alliance: Avatar Grove Might Get Saved – Please Write a Letter Now
BC Government Considers Protecting Avatar Grove and Ancient Trees
Yesterday BC’s Forests Minister Pat Bell announced that he is considering protecting the endangered Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, and is also looking at developing new legal tools to increase protection of exceptional ancient trees and old-growth stands in BC. This would be an important step forward!
See the Vancouver Sun article at: http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/resources/archive/2011/02/11/forests-minister-to-protect-ancient-trees.aspx
The Avatar Grove is a truly exceptional and easy to access stand of ancient trees which the Ancient Forest Alliance has been campaigning hard to protect for over a year – and we may get there soon if you SPEAK UP NOW! See our new Youtube clip (1 minute) on the Avatar Grove at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_uPkAWsvVw
We need progress for saving endangered ancient forests at all spatial scales — monumental trees, whole stands (like the Avatar Grove), and landscape level old-growth protections like valleys and regions. Starting with trees and stands is certainly a welcome beginning. Let’s make this happen!!
This will take just 5 MINUTES! Your letter counts! PLEASE WRITE to Pat Bell, Minister of Forests, Lands, and Mines at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let him know that you:
– Support him moving forward to protect the Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew. Let him know if you have visited the area.
– Support the protection of monumental ancient trees and stands of ancient trees.
– Want all old-growth protections to be legally-binding, not voluntary.
– Encourage him to also undertake a much larger Provincial Old-Growth Strategy to protect endangered old-growth forests across regions where they are scarce, such as on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, southern Interior, etc. and to ensure sustainable second-growth forestry instead.
Be sure to include your home mailing address so he knows you are a real person!
Also please SIGN our PETITION and get as many of your friends and family to as well at:http://www.ancientforestpetition.com/index.php#sign
All photos by by TJ Watt, courtesy of ancient Forest Alliance.