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The recent Fairy Creek Blockade near the town of Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island has shone a spotlight on the logging of old-growth forests. Sadly, only 2.7% of BC’s old-growth rainforests are left and it’s a battle to save what little is left from the chainsaws.

Recently, a two-and-a-half year study on a 35 km radius around the town of Port Renfrew covering the Arrowsmith Timber Supply area in Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations’ territories has found that the local economy could benefit more from ecotourism than logging the old-growth rainforests.

This independent study was done by Ancient Forest Alliance and was recently discussed by their spokesperson Andrea Inness in the National Observer (read the full study here):

“The study found that protecting all the old-growth forests in the study area near Port Renfrew could result in an additional $40 million in net economic benefits over the next 100 years compared to logging as usual.

The cost-benefit analysis indicates carbon storage or sequestration, recreation, tourism, coho salmon habitat, non-timber forest products like floral greenery and mushrooms, along with research or education opportunities are worth more than timber extraction alone.”

Perhaps, we could save the ancient old-growth rainforests of Vancouver Island by proving to the job-hungry government that they have more value intact for ecotourism and British Columbia’s burgeoning tourism industry.

Here are some of the amazing ecotourism opportunities on Vancouver Islands for people who want to experience the awe and wonder of ancient temperate forests.

1. Port Renfrew And Juan De Fuca Provincial Park:

The city of Victoria attracts more than four million overnight visitors each year. Only a 2-hour away you will find spectacular old-growth rainforests near the town of Port Renfrew.

Port Renfrew is the gateway to the old-growth rainforests of southern Vancouver Island. The town has made ecotourism a key growth area of its economy billing itself as “the Tall Tree Capital of Canada”.

A short drive from Port Renfrew is a number of protected sites including Avatar Grove, Eden Grove, Jurassic Grove and Big Lonely Doug, a massive Douglas fir that stands alone in a clear-cut.

In the area, you will also find Juan De Fuca Provincial Park, which offers spectacular ecotourism opportunities along Botanical Beach, Sombrio Beach and Mystic Beach.

2. The Carmanah Walbran And Nitinat Lake

Another extraordinary destination for experiencing ancient old-growth forests is the 163 square km (101 square mile) Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, which is 20 km northwest of Port Renfrew and protects some of the world’s oldest and largest Sitka Spruce trees.

These trees reach heights in excess of 95 metres (equivalent to a 28-story building) and can live for more than 800 years. You will also find ancient old-growth Western Red Cedars here that are more than 1,000 years old.

Popular trails in the park include the Carmanah Valley Mist Trail, Upper Carmanah Valley Trail, Walbran Valley and Harriet Nahanee Memorial Trial, Emerald Loop Trail and Castle Grove and Witness Trail although the trail maintenance is not very good here so it can be tricky to navigate.

Also nearby is the Cheewhat Lake preserve on the edge of Pacific Rim National Park, which contains several of Vancouver Island’s largest trees along the Cheewhat Lake Cedar Trail (this tree is notoriously hard to find as the rainforests takes over the trail). This area has the world’s largest know Western Red Cedar called the Cheewhat Lake Cedar, which has a trunk diameter of 6 m and a height of 56 m and some estimate it could be 2,000+ years old.

While this area can be accessed from Port Renfrew, the better road tends to be from Lake Cowichan in the north. Along that road, you will find more ancient old-growth forests in Nitinat River Provincial Park.

There are some camping options in the Carmanah Walbran area but the best camping is found 32 km away at Nitinat Lake Campground, which offers more than 100 campsites. This area is legendary for windsurfing and kiteboarding because of the incredible winds created on Nitanat Lake.

To learn more about the emerging ecotourism industry on Vancouver Island, I highly recommend this nature-based economy resource.

3. Pacific Rim National Park and Clayoqout Sound

Another excellent ecotourism destination for experiencing ancient old-growth forests is Pacific Rim National Park and the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

There are a number of excellent old-growth rainforest trails in Pacific Rim National Park. The Rainforest Trail, Ancient Cedars Trail, Schooner Cove Trail and the Wild Pacific Trail to the south near Ucluelet are all excellent trails for experiencing ancient old-growth forests.

In Clayoquot Sound to the north of Tofino, there is the world-famous Big Trees Trail on Meares Island and the Ahousaht Wild Side trail on Flores Island. The short hike to Hot Springs Cove is another must-do experience in this area.

These are just some of the more popular and accessible ancient rainforests found on Vancouver Island. Anyone who experiences these timeless wonders will know that protecting them is the only logical thing to do.

Hopefully, the growing economic value of ecotourism can help save the rainforests of Vancouver Island.

Kyle Pearce

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