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Champion of Vancouver Island old-growth forests wins prestigious honours

Photographer TJ Watt earns Trebek Initiative grant, named a National Geographic Explorer
Conservation photographer TJ Watt has won the Trebek Initiative grant and named a National Geographic Explorer and Royal Geographic Society Explorer for his work to protect B.C.’s old-growth forests. (Contributed - TJ Watt)

He’s devoted his life to protecting B.C.’s old-growth forests.

Now, Vancouver Island conservation photographer TJ Watt has been awarded support and recognition by receiving a Trebek Initiative grant and named a National Geographic Explorer and Royal Geographic Society Explorer.

The Trebek Initiative grant was announced last week and is named after the late Alex Trebek, the longtime Jeopardy! TV game show host.

The grant program aims to promote emerging Canadian explorers, scientists, educators and photographers, said David Court, chair of The Trebek Initiative.

“Receiving recognition from the Trebek Initiative, National Geographic Society and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is some of the highest praise I think you can get,” Watt, 37, said of his award.

He is co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting B.C.’s endangered old-growth forests and ensuring sustainable, second-growth forestry jobs.

Watt’s project will focus on creating new “before and after” series of huge old-growth trees standing and then cut, building on the impact of his first series captured in the Caycuse Valley that went viral around the world this year.

“Seeing before and after images of some of the largest trees in Earth’s history turned into massive stumps contrasts the grandeur and destruction of these spectacular eco-systems,” said Watt, a Victoria resident.

“The province and industry claim they’re practising sustainable forestry, but when 500 to 1,000-year-old trees are being cut down, the situation is pretty clear-cut – this is not sustainable.”

Often exploring remote forests alone with just his camera gear and a GPS in hand, Watt hopes capturing photos of endangered old-growth will bring the attention needed to protect these forests before they’re clear-cut.

“Ideally, no after photos will have to be taken,” Watt said.

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Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

It's my passion to contribute to the well-being of the community by connecting people through the power of reliable news and storytelling.
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