The first time Daniel J. Pierce stepped into an old growth forest, it took his breath away.
Pierce was near Port Renfrew when he decided to stop at Avatar Grove, an old growth forest known for its ancient red cedars and Douglas-firs.
Growing up in Ontario, Pierce never came across the types of massive trees found on the West Coast, let alone an old growth forest. What he saw astonished him.
“There were these giant, living-room-sized western red cedars that were just planets unto themselves. They have full grown trees growing off them and all these ferns. They are their own ecosystem,” said Pierce, adding he has since visited a number of other old growth forests.
“There’s this stillness and quietness that you don’t want to disturb. The whole place felt so lush and dripping with life.”
That moment sparked a years-long passion for old growth forests on the West Coast and the need to protect them. It is also the inspiration behind the 30-year-old Fernwood resident’s latest project: Heartwood: A West Coast Forestry Documentree.
The series follows coastal communities that are uniting to defend the last few pockets of old-growth temperate rainforest on the West Coast and demand a transition to sustainable, second growth, value-added forestry in the province. In particular, the film focuses on Cortez Island and the community conflict with Island Timberland, a coastal logging company.
Over the past four years, Pierce has made plenty of trips to the coast, interviewing people, mayors, MLAs, regional directors, First Nations chiefs and coastal community members about forestry issues on Vancouver Island.
“It broke my heart to know that all over the place, up and down Vancouver Island, was a forest and now it’s gone and if we keep cutting down those last few pockets, no one would know that that was there. Very quickly does collective amnesia start to set in and people will forget. They won’t believe that we had trees that big,” said Pierce, noting he is not anti-logging.
“I think logging should just be done in a more sustainable, long-term way than the way it’s currently being done based on short-term shareholder profit. Forests just don’t exist on that short of a time scale . . . We need a change in how we think about forestry.”
This is Pierce’s third long-form documentary. He also created a one-hour documentary called The Hollow Tree about the restoration of the hollow tree in Stanley Park in Vancouver.
While he has most of the interviews needed for the documentary, Pierce is in the process of a second crowdfunding campaign to generate funds to help move into the post-production phase. During the first campaign, he raised $10,000 to film the movie, most of which he shot himself, with help from his brother.
The money will be used to hire a composer, colour creator, sound designer and animator to create a broadcast standard piece.
Pierce hopes to release episode one of the five-part series in spring of next year, just before the provincial election in an attempt to put the logging industry back on the political agenda.
For more information about the campaign visit indiegogo.com and search Heartwood: A West Coast Forestry Documentree.