In just over a year, the Ancient Forest Alliance has collected almost 7,000 petition signatures, 18,000 supporters and fundraised more than $50,000.
Not bad for an environmental group in it’s infancy, says cofounder Ken Wu.
The non-profit organization founded in January 2010 is working to protect old-growth tree stands through B.C., including some on the West Shore.
“The western communities have some real gems of old growth,” Wu said. “On the Department of National Defence lands in Colwood and Metchosin, you’ve got some of the finest old-growth Douglas fir stands on the planet. It’s a spectacular place.”
AFA members spent the last year hunting the south Island for old-growth stands to document and photograph. It’s trying to put pressure on the B.C. government to protect old-growth stands for future generations.
“I think a lot of people realize this is a spectacular part of the world and the unfortunate thing is that the B.C. Liberal government still contends that old growth forests are not endangered on Vancouver Island, which is nuts … our old growth forests are now in tatters and are now a teeny fraction of what they once were.”
AFA’s discovery of an old-growth stand near Port Renfrew, dubbed Avatar Grove, has some of the largest trees on the Island and in Canada, Wu said. It’s in an area zoned for logging, with rights belonging to Surrey-based Teal Jones Group. The AFA is now offering guided public hikes to the area every month.
“It’ll knock your socks off,” Wu said. “It’s got Canada’s gnarliest tree. This tree’s got a burl that is 12 feet wide — something that can only happen in an old-growth forest.”
Looking forward into 2011, Wu says he’s optimistic about the upcoming leadership races for the B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP.
“There’s great potential for new progressive environmental policies, but we’ve got to snowball the size of the movement to ensure that happens,” he said.
The AFA is trying to collect 100,000 signatures for a petition calling on the government to protect old-growth forests and forestry jobs.
One of the ways it intends to do that is through a provincewide slideshow tour. The team will be traveling across the province delivering photo presentations about the most endangered old-growth stands, including Avatar Grove, Flores Island and the upper Walbran Valley.
Wu says the AFA already enjoys tremendous support from government representatives regionally, provincially and federally. Mike Hicks, CRD Juan de Fuca regional director; John Horgan, Juan de Fuca NDP MLA; Keith Martin, Liberal MP; the Sooke Tourism Association and the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce are all calling for the protection of Avatar Grove, according to Wu.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the BC government to make a land use order to protect the Avatar Grove and eventually to establish new protective areas too. We need to protect the old-growth across Vancouver Island and throughout much of the province because it’s so endangered now.”
For more information about the Ancient Forest Alliance, visit www.ancientforestalliance.org.