'This has to change': B.C. ecologist who caught the attention of actress Amy Adams talks old-growth logging

The work of a world-renowned B.C. ecologist has caught the attention of Hollywood.

Suzanne Simard will be played by Amy Adams in an upcoming movie about her life. The film will be based on the University of British Columbia professor's book, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.

The memoir on plant communication covers three decades of Simard's research, and was a New York Times Best Seller. Publishing company Penguin Random House describes the author as "the world's leading ecologist who forever changed how people view trees and their connections to one another and to the living things in the forest."


In an interview on CTV Morning Live Monday, Simard was asked what it is about her story that enticed A-listers including Adams.

"I think, like the rest of the world, they're really concerned about the status of our forests, the state of our environment," she said.

She drew a comparison between her work and the 2016 film Arrival, which also stars Adams. Simard's story doesn't include the sudden appearance of aliens who encourage conservation efforts, but the message about fighting against climate change is similar.

She said she thinks it's a message that was meaningful to Adams.

Simard was asked about the process; how did her memoir catch the actress's attention?

She said she and her agent wrote up a "treatment" of her memoir, a document that presented what a film version of the book would look like. Simard said they had no idea if the idea would be picked up, but they sent it to an American talent and media agency and hoped for the best.

That company sent the story to a number of production companies, where it caught the attention of Amy Adams' Bond Group Entertainment. A company owned by actor Jake Gyllenhaal was also on board.

"There was lots of interest," Simard said.

Her story involves more than the research Simard is known for. The ecologist entered her field at a time when few women were in forestry.

She grew up in a logging family in B.C.'s inland rainforest.

Simard saw the process of selective logging of old-growth trees – "seeing how the forest could be actually forested while leaving the forest intact" – firsthand, and went on to become a forester.

"That's when clearcutting was just taking off," she said.


"I know from that experience and then studying it for 40 years that there are better ways to harvest our forests, to get what we need from them while still leaving them as healthy, productive ecosystems, and I think that story applies to most forests, including what's going on at Fairy Creek."

The Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island has been the site of demonstrations since last year. Private logging company Teal Jones has a licence to harvest the trees on the site, but protesters are trying to stop the removal of the cedars, many of which are hundreds of years old.

Dozens have been arrested in the few weeks following an injunction against the blockades.

As Simard spoke to CTV News Monday, activists planned to gather at a Teal Jones Group's sawmill in Surrey, B.C., to protest the old-growth logging.

Also on Monday, a group of B.C. First Nations said they'd reached an agreement to defer old-growth logging in parts of southwestern Vancouver Island for two years, including in the Fairy Creek area. 

Demonstrators called the agreement "far short of what we need," saying it would still allow industrial logging of old-growth trees across southern Vancouver Island.


Simard said only three per cent of the big old-growth forests are left, the rest have been clear-cut.

"The thing is that these forests along the West Coast – actually in the inland rainforests of B.C. as well and all down through California, up to Alaska – are hotspots for biodiversity and for carbon storage," she said.

"And they of course link to the big global carbon cycle… Most people don't know this, but the amount of emissions from logging, clear-cut logging in British Columbia, actually outpaces that from fossil fuels."

Taking wildfires into account, which she attributes to climate change, the emissions triple, Simard said.

"What we're doing in forests is so important in the global carbon cycle, and it's amazing that it's not even counted. When we're doing our national carbon budgets, we don't even count what's going on in forests," she said.

"This has to change so that we have a better idea of the value of these forests standing up, instead of as two-by-fours and filling the pockets of corporate interests."

Watch the full interview above.