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Ken Wu and the Fight for Canada's Remaining Pacific Coast Old Growth

Text by Joan Maloof                                                                 [launch slideshow]
Photos by Rick Maloof

Ken Wu
Ken Wu, Victoria Campaign Director, Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
Photo courtesy CanWest Media Works Publications, Inc.


Vancouver Island's Walbran Valley

The most spectacular and diverse stands of ancient trees in Canada grow in the 13,000 hectare Walbran Valley, a three-hour drive from Victoria. The Walbran is located south of the Carmanah Valley, adjacent to the West Coast Trail. The 7,500-hectare Upper Walbran Valley is unprotected, while the Lower Walbran Valley and part of the West Walbran Valley lies within the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.

The Walbran contains perhaps the most geographically extensive stand of cathedral-like ancient redcedars, the Castle Grove — currently unprotected. Incredible stands of giant Sitka spruce lie within the protected part of the West Walbran Valley. Sprinkled throughout the valley are the occasional giant ancient Douglas firs. Logging by Teal Jones and Western Forest Products are heavily fragmenting the valley right now.

Source: OldGrowthPlaces.org.

Walbran Valley, photo by Rick Maloof


Are photographs useful in the struggle to preserve beauty and diversity in the natural world? Consider the story of Ken Wu. When Wu was a young boy in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, his parents bought him The Illustrated Natural History of Canada book series. In the Pacific Coast edition Wu found a photograph that fascinated him. It was an old black-and-white photo from the Public Archives of Canada showing four couples, in the old-fashioned dress of that era, waltzing on a tree stump. Wu had never seen a tree as large as the one that must have been taken from that stump. He had no idea that such trees even grew in Canada. He read in the text that the Pacific Coast once contained many trees that huge, but that most of them had already been removed by loggers. The only places where one could still see the gigantic trees were in parks or remote valleys that the loggers hadn’t yet reached.

Wu wanted to see those trees with his own eyes; he started pestering his parents to take him to British Columbia to see the old-growth forests. His parents obliged, and he was not disappointed. In fact, he was entranced.

When the time came for Wu to pick a college, he chose the University of British Columbia so he could be close to the ancient forests. While in college he learned that the trees he loved so much were still in danger of becoming stumps. The logging of the giant trees had been ongoing—at least since before the black-and-white photograph was taken.

Wu knew that he must do something to work to save the trees that remained. He joined the campus Environmental Youth Alliance, and was involved in the first major logging protest on Vancouver Island. He was only 17 at the time. Five-hundred people showed up, even though they had to drive for hours on a bone-jarring dirt logging road to get to the site of the protest.

Protestors weren’t able to save all the trees but they saved some of them. Wu has been working to save the rest ever since. He has been at it now for 17 years. He graduated from UBC and joined the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, an organization whose main focus is saving the remaining old-growth forests. Now the logging protests draw thousands of people and Wu is the one at the microphone.

The day I met him led a group of writers and environmental literature critics on a tour of the old growth. He encouraged us to spread the word about these beautiful ancient forests and about the ongoing logging in British Columbia.

Because it was photography that sparked Wu’s passion for the forest, it seems fitting to answer his request with photographs. These photos were taken on June 7, 2009, in an old-growth forest in the Upper Walbran Valley of Vancouver Island. This area is public land (“crown land” in Canadian parlance) but it is not protected from logging, and it is under immediate threat of being logged. We welcome you to join the movement to save this forest, and all other remaining old-growth forests. We’d rather dance under the shade of the canopy than on top of the stumps.


View online slideshow of 12 old-growth forest photographs by Rick Maloof  >>   
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Joan Maloof is the author of Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest (University of Georgia Press, 2005) and the forthcoming Getting to Old Growth: Visiting the Ancient Eastern Forests. She is associate professor of biology and environmental studies at Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Rick Maloof has been an active photographer for over 50 years. Often described as a “philosopher / photographer” he frequently donates his work to non-profit agencies and art admirers. One of his current projects is photographing old-growth forests in western North America.
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Posted by P McGoldrickOctober 29, 2009 - 09:38 am
If a picture tells a thousand words, this slideshow of digital photos speaks loudly with the force of hundreds of thousands.
Thank you for sharing this visual collection of treasures. Our Canadian portion of old-growth forests is in need of such a visual voice to increase awareness of these gems.

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Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada

Save the Walbran Valley Documentary Featuring Ken Wu

Upper Walbran Valley on OldGrowthPlaces.org

Vancouver Island's West Coast Trail

Western Canada Wilderness Committee


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