Ancient Forest Alliance

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Logo of the Ancient Forest Alliance
Established 2010
Board of Directors Ken Wu, TJ Watt, Tara Sawatsky, Michelle Connolly
Headquarters Victoria, BC, Canada
Membership 7,000[1][2]

The Ancient Forest Alliance is a grassroots environmental organization in British Columbia, Canada. It was founded in January, 2010, and is dedicated to protecting British Columbia's old growth forests in areas where they are scarce, and ensuring sustainable forestry jobs in that province.


The San Juan Spruce, Canada's largest Sitka spruce, 15km east of Port Renfrew

The objectives of the Ancient Forest Alliance, as stated on their website, are to:[3]

  • Undertake a Provincial Old-Growth Strategy that will inventory the old-growth forests in BC and protect them where they are scarce (ie. Vancouver Island, southern Mainland coast, southern Interior, etc.)
  • Ensure the sustainable logging of second-growth forests, which now constitute the majority of forest lands in southern BC.
  • End the export of BC raw logs to foreign mills in order to ensure a guaranteed log supply for BC mills and value-added processing facilities.
  • Assist in the retooling and development of BC coastal sawmills and value-added facilities to handle second-growth logs.
  • Undertake new, democratic land-use planning processes to protect endangered forests based on new First Nations land-use plans, ecosystem-based scientific assessments, and climate mitigation strategies through forest protection.


The Ancient Forest Alliance was founded in January 2010 by former Western Canada Wilderness Committee activists Ken Wu, TJ Watt, and Tara Sawatsky, along with old-growth activists Katrina Andres and Brendan Harry from Victoria and Michelle Connolly from Vancouver. The founders were prompted to start the new organization when the Western Canada Wilderness Committee announced in late 2009 that it was both closing its Victoria storefront and reorganizing its Victoria office in a way that they felt reduced its focus on old growth forests.[4][5][6] The objective of the Ancient Forest Alliance was to fill a different niche than the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee by focusing specifically on old growth forests and by not obtaining status as a charitable organization, which allows it to either endorse or condemn politicians based on their forest policies.[7][8] By March 9, 2010, less than two months after its creation, the Ancient Forest Alliance had grown to over 6,000 Facebook members.[1]


The Tolkien Giant in the unprotected upper Walbran Valley.

The Ancient Forest Alliance currently has a board of directors consisting of Victoria conservationists and former Wilderness Committee activists Ken Wu, TJ Watt, Tara Sawatsky, and Vancouver activist Michelle Connolly.[3][9] Most of the work has been volunteered by the board of directors and supporters, but in March, 2010, the Ancient Forest Alliance launched a fundraising drive so they could hire core staff and pay for campaign costs.[3]

Although the Ancient Forest Alliance is registered as a non-profit society in British Columbia, they have declared that they will not register as a charitable organization.[7][10] The lack of charitable status makes fundraising more difficult, because they can not issue tax receipts for donations.[10] However, it also allows them to reject or endorse specific political candidates, based on their stance on old growth forests,[7][10] while charitable organizations cannot take partisan political positions.[11] The Ancient Forest Alliance has said that they will organize in swing ridings to have maximum effectiveness in influencing government policies.[10]

Aerial art event organized by the Ancient Forest Committee at Simon Fraser University

The Ancient Forest Alliance has also stated that they will "help empower, train, and guide new citizens’ groups that are going to fight for ancient forests", which they feel will help them run an effective campaign on a much smaller budget than larger environmental organizations.[10] Since 2007, Ancient Forest Committees have been founded in various universities and regions of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, including the University of British Columbia,[12] Simon Fraser University,[13] and the University of Victoria.[14] These Ancient Forest Committees are autonomous, volunteer-run organizations that are independent from the Ancient Forest Alliance, but endorse its goals and strategies, and collaborate on certain events such as rallies, hiking trips, and activist training gatherings.[3]


Photographer TJ Watt in Avatar Grove
Documenting ancient forests and giant trees

The Ancient Forest Alliance has stated that they will "explore and document endangered ancient forests, record-sized heritage trees, and areas destroyed by old-growth logging."[3] Photographer TJ Watt has been exploring and documenting old growth forests and giant trees for the Ancient Forest Alliance.[15]

The Red Creek Fir, the largest known Douglas-fir on earth, 15 km from Port Renfrew, BC
Protecting the Red Creek Fir

The 1000-year old Red Creek fir is 73.8 m (242 ft) tall and 4.2m (13’ 9”) wide, and is the largest Douglas-fir in the world.[16] In February 2010 the Ancient Forest Alliance announced that they had discovered new logging tape within a few hundred meters of the Red Creek Fir, and that they feared it might soon be surrounded by a clearcut, making it susceptible to blowdown and reducing its tourism value.[17][18][19] The Ministry of Forests has stated that the area immediately surrounding the Red Creek Fir is protected from logging, and that there are no plans to log the surrounding area in the immediate future.[18][19] TimberWest, which owns the surrounding area, has confirmed this, stating that the logging tape does not necessarily mean that it will be logged, and that they are not planning on logging the area within the next year or two.[20] The Red Creek Fir is an important tourist attraction for the nearby town of Port Renfrew, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.[18][19] TimberWest has said that they recognize the value of the tree, and are looking at improving access to it for tourists.[20] The Ancient Forest Alliance has put up a new sign at the Red Creek Fir,[18][19] and they are asking the British Columbia government to establish a Provincial Heritage Trees designation that will identify and protect the 100 largest and oldest specimens of each of the province’s tree species[16]

A giant cedar in Avatar Grove, painted for felling
Protecting Avatar Grove

The Ancient Forest Alliance is campaigning to protect a 10-hectare stand of 80-meter tall old growth Douglas-fir and western red cedar that is 15 minutes outside of Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, Canada.[21] It was discovered by TJ Watt[21] and has been nicknamed Avatar Grove.[22][23] The Ancient Forest Alliance claims that this is one of the most spectacular and most accessible stands of ancient trees in a wilderness setting that remains on southern Vancouver Island, and that it is one of the only examples in the region of old growth forest on a valley bottom.[21][23] One of the giant cedars in Avatar Grove has numerous huge burls and has been dubbed "Canada's gnarliest tree".[24] The Teal-Jones Group has cutting rights for the area, and while the Ministry of Forests reports that logging is prohibited in a portion of Avatar Grove, the Ancient Forest Alliance maintains that the majority is still unprotected.[25] John Cash, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, has said that he supports the protection of Avatar Grove because of its potential for increasing tourism in the area.[22][25] On March 28, 2010, the Ancient Forest Alliance organized a trip to take volunteers, community members, and media to see Avatar Grove.[2][26]

An old growth big leaf maple growing by Sutton Creek, near Lake Cowichan, BC.
Three-step program for the Post-Avatar Blues

In February, 2010, the Ancient Forest Alliance announced their three-step program to cure the Post-Avatar Blues, a depression experienced by some viewers of the blockbuster film Avatar when they have to return to the drab reality of Earth after experiencing the wondrous ecology of the fictional moon Pandora.[22][27] The Ancient Forest Alliance maintained that the ancient forests of British Columbia and the wildlife that inhabits them are just as spectacular as the forests of Pandora, and suggested the following three-step program to cure movie-goers of their depression: "Get out and experience nature, take action to defend nature, and get others to do the same".[27]

Rally for old growth forests in Vancouver, BC, on March 27, 2010
Avatar-themed rally to protect old growth forests

The Ancient Forest Alliance has organized one rally, which was held in downtown Vancouver on March 27, 2010. About 100 supporters marched from Canada Place to the Vancouver Art Gallery, making demands for the BC government to protect endangered old growth forests and support sustainable logging of second growth forests.[28] The rally borrowed images from the blockbuster hit Avatar, with numerous people painted as characters from that movie.[29] [30]

A red cedar stump measuring 15ft in diameter near Port Renfrew, BC
Canada's Biggest Stumps competition

In April, 2010, members of the Ancient Forest Alliance discovered some giant stumps near Port Renfrew, BC.[31] The stumps were from recently cut old growth red cedar, and measured between 3.7 and 4.6 metres in diameter.[32][33] The stumps were on crown land being logged by the Surrey-based Teal-Jones Group.[32][33] This discovery prompted the Ancient Forest Alliance to launch "Canada's Biggest Stumps Competition", and they created a Facebook site where people can upload their pictures of giant stumps.[31]

The Refugee Tree, the largest red cedar in the Capital Regional District, BC
Creating new regional parks in the Capital Regional District

In May, 2010, the Parks department of the Capital Regional District of southern Vancouver Island hosted a number of public input meetings to determine, among other things, candidates for new protected areas in the region.[34] The Ancient Forest Alliance praised the Capital Regional District for considering public input,[34] and recommended several areas of old growth forest for protection in regional parks. The areas that the Ancient Forest Alliance wants the Capital Regional District to protect include the Red Creek Fir (the largest Douglas-fir on earth), the San Juan Spruce (the largest Sitka spruce in Canada), and Avatar Grove, all of which are on public land.[35]

The Castle Giant growing in the unprotected upper Walbran Valley
Organizing in swing ridings

On April 9, 2010, the Ancient Forest Alliance led media representatives to see a 400-year-old Douglas-fir growing in the Oak Bay-Gordon Head provincial electoral district in order to launch their campaign in that swing riding.[36] The group declared that they will focus their campaign on the dozen or so swing ridings in British Columbia to force the BC government to protect endangered old-growth forests, ensure the sustainable logging of second-growth forest, ban raw log exports, and assist in retooling of old-growth sawmills for value-added wood manufacturing.[36] The Ancient Forest Alliance is not a charity, and is therefore permitted to condemn or endorse politicians and political parties.[36] On May 14, the group held a gift-giving ceremony at BC Liberal MLA Ida Chong's office in Oak Bay.[37] Ida Chong won the last election by a 2% margin.[3]


On May 8, 2010, the Ancient Forest Alliance held a fundraiser at Tzvi's Place in Vancouver. Numerous musicians played at the event, and all proceeds went to the Ancient Forest Alliance, and to support local musicians.[38] The Big Tree Tour is another fundraiser for the Ancient Forest Alliance, which is scheduled to happen from June 3 to 6, 2010. Eight riders will take pledges from donors, and intend to cycle 260 km through southern Vancouver Island to visit some of the largest trees on the planet.[39]


  1. ^ a b Leiren-Young, Mark. 2010. "Ken Wu Wants to Save 'the Avatar Grove': The veteran BC forests activist has a new organization and cause." The Tyee, March 9.[1]
  2. ^ a b Pope, Danielle. 2010. Vancouver Island’s own Avatar world under threat. Martlet, March 25.[2][permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f Main page for the Ancient Forest Alliance
  4. ^ Youmans, Jason. 2010. "Old Forests, New Twist." Monday Magazine, January 20."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  5. ^ Lavoie, Judith. 2010. "Island forest group strikes out on its own". Times Colonist, January 20.[3]
  6. ^ Holman, Sean. 2010. "Wu in the wild." Public Eye, January 19
  7. ^ a b c Hill, Edward. 2010. "Old-growth forest activists launch new group". Goldstream News Gazette, January 20.[4][permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Wu, Ken. 2010. New eco-group points to resource depletion as the driver behind the collapse of coastal forestry jobs and ecosystems. The Victoria Naturalist,"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2010-05-12.  vol. 66.6, May–June.[5]
  9. ^ Clarke, Brennan. 2010. Prospect of logging in Douglas fir ecosystem above Nanoose Bay worries neighbouring municipalities. Globe and Mail, April 30.[6]
  10. ^ a b c d e Vandergugten, Nic. 2010. Alliance protects ancient forests. Nexus Newspaper, March 18.[7][permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Canada Revenue Agency. September 2, 2003. Policy statement: Political activities. CPS-022. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  12. ^ The College Sustainability Report Card 2010. Assessment for the University of British Columbia [8]
  13. ^ Jones, Stefanie, and Eric Rinne. 2010. "Big, green, carbon-eating machines." The Peak: The Independent Student Newspaper at Simon Fraser University, March 15.[9]
  14. ^ University of Victoria Sustainability Project. 2010. Working list of environmental organisations on campus."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  15. ^ Haim, Daniel. 2010. "TJ Watt Exclusive Interview Canadian Landscape Environmental Photographer". Bloginity, February 17.[10]
  16. ^ a b GreenMuze Staff. 2010. "World’s Largest Douglas Fir Under Threat." GreenMuze, March 1.[11]
  17. ^ A News Vancouver Island. 2010. "Giant Fir Threatened." A News Vancouver Island, February 24.[12]
  18. ^ a b c d Lavoie, Judith. 2010. "Largest Douglas fir in the world at risk say environmentalists". Times Colonist, February 25.[13]
  19. ^ a b c d Lavoie, Judith. 2010. "World's largest Douglas fir at risk, fearful environmentalists charge". The Vancouver Sun, February 26."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-04. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  20. ^ a b Lavoie, Judith. 2010. "No logging plans near giant fir: TimberWest". Times Colonist, March 6."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-10. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  21. ^ a b c Lavoie, Judith. 2010. "Environmental group: Protect rare forest giants marked for logging near Port Renfrew". Times Colonist, February 19.[14]
  22. ^ a b c Sullivan, Paul. 2010. "Pandora fans feeling blue over the Earth." Metro Canada, March 17."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  23. ^ a b Macleans "Need to Know" column. 2010. "Threatened B.C. forest dubbed the “Avatar Grove”." Macleans, March 11.[15]
  24. ^ Pynn, Larry. 2010. Deformed cedar puts new face on old-growth protection on Vancouver Island. Vancouver Sun, March 25 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-29. Retrieved 2010-05-12.  and March 26.[16][permanent dead link]
  25. ^ a b Lavoie, Judith. 2010. "Rare stand of old-growth trees near Port Renfrew only partly protected says eco-group: Port Renfrew wants big trees saved, but many marked for cutting". Times Colonist, February 20.[17]
  26. ^ Youmans, Jason. 2010. The Week - April 1. Monday Magazine, April 1."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-07. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  27. ^ a b Reid, Michael D. 2010. "The Avatar blues: 3-D paradise of blockbuster film spawns a longing for idyllic life". Times Colonist, February 26.[18][permanent dead link]
  28. ^ Wood, Graeme. 2010. B.C.'s old-growth forests have support of the Na'vi. Vancouver Sun, March 27.[19][permanent dead link]
  29. ^ Fournier, Suzanne. 2010. Protesters to rally for B.C.'s 'gnarliest' tree to protect old-growth forest. Vancouver Province, March 26."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  30. ^ 2010. Earthly Na'vi. 24 Hours Vancouver, March 29, pg. 4
  31. ^ a b Fortey, Laura. 2010. Old-growth forest activists turn to Facebook. Metro Vancouver, May 14."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  32. ^ a b Lavoie, Judith. 2010. Massive Port Renfrew tree stumps raise logging suspicions. Vancouver Sun, May 14.[20][permanent dead link]
  33. ^ a b Lavoie, Judith. 2010. Old-growth forest 'a sea of stumps'. Victoria Times Colonist, May 14.[21]
  34. ^ a b Boyes, Andrea. 2010. Ancient Forest Alliance applauds CRD Parks for considering public input. CFAX 1070, May 18.[22]
  35. ^ Knox, Jack. 2010. Peace in the forest an elusive goal in B.C. Times Colonist, May 20."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-22. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  36. ^ a b c Sandra McCulloch, Sandra. 2010. Environmental activist targets Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding to launch tree campaign. Vancouver Sun, April 10.[23][permanent dead link]
  37. ^ Oak Bay News. May 14, 2010[permanent dead link]
  38. ^ Hanley, Jonathan. 2010. Celebration of Nature, Music and Dance brings artists together to protect forests. Vancouver Observer, May 8.[24]
  39. ^ Big Tree Tour. 2010. The Big Tree Tour Blog

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