Conservationists are delighted that the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, representing 73 businesses in the region, has issued a statement to the provincial government requesting that it protect the Central Walbran Valley from old-growth logging.
Port Renfrew, formerly a logging town, has been transformed in recent years into a big tree tourism destination as hundreds of thousands of tourists have come from around the world in recent years to visit some of Canada’s largest trees in the nearby Avatar Grove, the Red Creek Fir (the world’s largest Douglas-fir tree), Big Lonely Doug (Canada’s 2nd largest Douglas-fir tree), San Juan Spruce (until recently Canada’s largest Sitka spruce tree, the Harris Creek spruce (one of the largest Sitka spruce trees in Canada), and the Central Walbran Valley.
The publicity about the old-growth forests near Port Renfrew in recent years has brought in a flood of visitors from Europe, the USA, Canada, and diverse countries to visit Port Renfrew. This has especially been true since the protection of the Avatar Grove in 2012.
Dan Hager, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce said that if the Central Walbran were to be protected, it would be a great addition to the town’s repertoire of big tree attractions.
“Along with sport fishing, old-growth forest tourism has become a staple of our local economy,” Hager said.
The Central Walbran Valley’s 500 hectare tract of lush old-growth temperate rainforest has long been an area of public interest since hiking trails were built in the valley in 1990. In 1994, the B.C. government protected the Lower Walbran Valley, about 5,500 hectares, as part of the larger Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park, but left out the Central Walbran Valley (500 hectares) and the Upper Walbran Valley (7,000 hectares) from the park.
Since then, most of the Upper Walbran has been heavily tattered by logging, but the Central Walbran remains largely intact. However, Teal-Jones is planning eight new cutblocks in the Central Walbran, of which one (cutblock 4424) has been approved by the province.
The Central Walbran Valley lies on Crown (public) land in the territory of the Pacheedaht band in Tree Farm Licence 46 held by Teal-Jones.
About 75 per cent of the original productive old-growth forests have been logged on southern Vancouver Island, including over 90 per cent of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow, while about 8 per cent is protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas.
The Ancient Forest Alliance now looks to expand that area of protection of an otherwise-unique and historic forest.