Protecting Our Ancient Forests

Tofino Creek, Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, Garth Lenz
The coastal old growth forests of Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, after 144 years of exploitation, continue to come under assault by short-minded economics and small-minded thinking. We have done a poor job of protecting our ancient forests.

The devastation in the photo above documents an "alternative logging operation" in 1991 at Tofino Creek, Clayoquot Sound, on Vancouver Island. It became widely seen as a poster for a Greenpeace campaign to end clear cut logging.

More recently, ancient forest campaigner TJ Watt added to the documentation of the end of the ancient forest. He took the award-winning photo below near the big tree town of Port Renfrew.

Circumference: 35ft
Diameter: 11ft
Species: Redcedar
Valley: Bugaboo Creek in the Gordon River Valley
Region: Port Renfrew area, Vancouver Island

Ancient Forest Alliance, of which Watt is a co-founder, is the fastest growing environmental group in Canada. The dedicated and hard working organization is "working to protect the endangered old-growth forests of BC, and to ensure sustainable forestry jobs in the province". See more of Watt's work, along with an interview here.

The Sierra Club images below graphically illustrate why so many people are concerned about old growth forests on Vancouver Island and the BC mainland coast. They highlight the vanishing forest, which by the way, happens to be a global phenomena.

About half of the worlds forests have been similarly affected. "The clearing of the forests has been one of the most historic and prodigious feats of humanity."

Click on images to enlarge.
Forest cover prior to European settlement (click to enlarge)

The 10,000 year old forest after 144 years of exploitation

British Columbia's mainland coastal forests, and Haida Gwaii have also been the target of industrial logging interests over the past century and a half.

It is time to end old growth logging in BC's forests

Vancouver Island Forest Facts (source: AFA)

left edge
The most recent photo analysis based on 2004 LandSat satellite images shows that:
  • 73% of the original productive old-growth forests of Vancouver Island have been logged. ie. 27% remained by 2004.
  • 87% of the original productive old-growth forests on southern Vancouver Island, south of Barkley Sound/Alberni Canal, have been logged. ie.13% remains
  • 90% of the low elevation (less than 300 meters above sea level), flat (less than 17% slope) ancient forests, such as the valley bottoms, where the largest trees grow and the greatest biodiversity resides, have been logged. ie. 10% remains
  • Only 6% of Vancouver Island's productive forest lands are protected in our parks system.
  • Only 1% of the original old-growth Coastal Douglas fir zone remains.
  • Less than 1% of the original very dry eastern Coastal Western Hemlock forests are protected.
  • Only 2% of the original very dry western Coastal Western Hemlock forests are protected.

Carmanah Valley, Vancouver Island, Garth Lenz
The photo above shows some of the unbelievable Sitka spruce of Vancouver Island's Carmanah Valley. Once slated to be logged, the tallest spruce trees in Canada were saved after an extensive campaign and public outcry.

Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park is reached via a rough logging road, and is in a remote and rugged location. It is worth every bit of effort to visit this amazing place and witness some of the largest and tallest trees on earth.

There are more old growth forests like the Carmanah Valley that need our help. The following immediately come to mind, although there are more that I will be writing about in future posts:
  • Mary Lake, Highlands District
  • Muir Creek, west of Sooke
  • Avatar Grove, Port Renfrew
  • Clayoquot Sound, Tofino
  • The Great Bear Rainforest, mainland coast
  • Flores Island, Tofino
Tell Premier Clark you support the protection of British Columbia's remaining ancient forests.

Honourable Christy Clark, Premier
Victoria BC


  1. Wow, truly shocking - thanks for the enlightening photos and information.

  2. Vireviews,

    It is 'truly shocking' indeed. I can only think that there has not been a bigger public outcry because people generally do not know, or see, what has been happening in our old growth forests.

    Looking at this information shows us that our ancient forests are almost extinct, regardless of what successive governments tell us. Officials also do not tell us that they are converting our landscape to massive 'fibre farms' growing genetically modified trees. Or that the government's forest mandate has changed from one of protection for the public interest and ecological integrity, to protection of investment opportunities and shareholder value.

    We have the power, and we CAN stop this. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Liz Taylor13/12/11

    I am from Ontario and so want to visit this area and feel these wonderful trees first hand as I am definitely a "tree" person. This is an issue for all Canadians. Thank you for your work in this area. I will be educating myself further in order to be a pro-active supporter!!


  4. Liz,

    The destruction of the coastal forest is definitely of national, and global, significance.

    I am sure we will look back on it some day and consider it to be a crime against nature (which is essentially a crime against ourselves).

    As a tree person I am glad you found our blog. Hopefully we can help in your continuing education on our coastal forests.

    Forests--everywhere--need more supporters.

    Thank you!

  5. Anonymous24/1/13

    Oh my goodness this brings tears to my eyes :( I had no idea.
    Thanks for the reality check.


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