Mark Ruffalo Backs Protestors Protecting Old-Growth Forests in British Columbia

The star’s support comes as Canada enacts new deferrals for logging in some ancient forests.

British Columbia old growth forest

Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty Images

The fight in British Columbia, Canada to protect old-growth forests from logging interests has gained the support of a modern day superhero. Mark Ruffalo, best known as the Hulk-transforming character Bruce Banner in the Marvel films, is flexing his social media muscle (with over 33 million followers combined) to support activists on the ground blocking logging companies from cutting down ancient giants. 

Ruffalo, a passionate environmentalist who regularly puts himself in the middle of topics ranging from climate change to animal welfare, says he experienced first-hand the majesty of B.C.’s old-growth forests while filming the upcoming science-fiction film “The Adam Project.”

“This winter I filmed in Vancouver and in my free time I was grateful to experience ancient old growth cedar trees that were over 2,000 years old,” he wrote on Facebook

The fight for Fairy Creek 

Since August 2020, environmental activists have been gathering within the Fairy Creek watershed, part of a 145,000-acre timber harvesting tenure held by private logging company Teal Jones. The sprawling region is the last unlogged old-growth valley on southern Vancouver Island and home to massive, near record-sized ancient yellow cedars and western hemlocks—some measuring over 9.5 feet in diameter. It’s estimated that many of these giants may have been growing in this unprotected valley for at least the last thousand years. 

“These are some of the biggest, most remarkable yellow cedars we’ve ever seen,” Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) campaigner and photographer TJ Watt said in a release. “Yellow cedars are the longest-lived life forms in Canada, with the oldest one, located on the Sunshine Coast and cut down in 1993, recorded as being 1,835 years old. At 9.5 feet wide, the largest one we measured in the Fairy Creek headwaters could very well be approaching 2,000 years in age.”

Naturally, these old-growth trees are extremely valuable to the logging industry, with the boards created generally clear of knots and tightly grained. That said, companies like Teal Jones, are restricted from how many ancient trees they’re allowed to take from the land. 

"There's still millions of acres of old-growth forest protected, so it's never, ever going to run out," Jack Gardner, a log purchaser for Teal-Jones, told CTV News. "There's lots of protected old-growth out there." 

According to AFA campaigner Andrea Inness, these protections simply do not go far enough. 

“A recent independent analysis found that only 2.7% of BC’s high productivity, big tree old-growth forests are standing today and over 75% of what remains is slated for logging in coming years,” stated Inness in the release. “Despite these alarming statistics, the BC government has failed to embrace the study’s findings, has failed to act, and continues to allow logging in these irreplaceable ecosystems.”

A small, but important first victory 

Only days after Ruffalo voiced his support for the activists, the Canadian government announced Wednesday (June 9) that it was suspending old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek watershed and the nearby central Walbran valley. The move, described as a transformational moment for the forest industry by Premier John Horgan, came at the behest of local Indigenous communities. The two-year deferrals will allow these communities to create their own land-management policies as it relates to old-growth forests across roughly 5,000 acres.

"This is in everyone's interest," Horgan said. "It's in the interest of those majestic forests and the biodiversity that depends on it. It's in the interest of industry because they have certainty. And of course it's in the interest of communities because we're going to attach forests to communities, not to shareholders."

While the deferrals are a step in the right direction, activists say many more are necessary to protect areas that remain under threat; in particular rainforest areas adjacent to Fairy Creek. For now, protestors say they will remain to impede loggers from further harming these irreplaceable ecosystems. 

“It’s a welcome change to see the province responding to this request from First Nations, and giving them the time to develop a plan that works for them,” Saul Arbess, a member of the on-the-ground activist group Rainforest Flying Squad, said in a statement. “It’s a good deferral, however it falls short of the deferrals required to pause logging in all of the critically endangered areas currently being defended, for generations to come.”

The Canadian government says it is reviewing additional deferrals and plans to release more details on those old-growth areas under review later this summer.