Declaring A Forest Emergency

At this late stage in our ongoing global environmental emergency, the continued cutting of old growth forests in BC (or anywhere) should be considered a crime against humanity. 
We are losing the forests and we are losing the forest creatures. We are losing the soil and the sea, and the atmosphere. All life is in peril. 
For what? Short term profit, another successful election win, unmitigated greed.

“Forests are complex systems that depend on the wildlife that live in them to keep them healthy, and the rapid decrease in forest wildlife in recent decades is an urgent warning sign. 
Forests are our greatest natural ally in the fight against climate breakdown. We lose them at our peril. 
“We need global leaders to declare a planetary emergency and kickstart a global programme of recovery to keep our forests standing to protect our planet.” 
- Baldwin-Cantello, WWF forests specialist

Read "Below The Canopy" here. 


The Money Huggers Want All The Old Growth

How much of Canada's old growth forests do the money huggers want to cut down? 

All of it. Each and every massive, ancient, beautiful tree, wherever it may be. 

Where we see dendrological miracles, they see only bags of cash. They want to convert all the old growth to those bags that they clutch to their chests as they chuckle maniacally in the wreckage.

And they will get all of it, if we don't stop them. And we can, if we want to bad enough, stop them. They are, after all, our trees.

A recent example of our power to save the old growth concerns the sale of remnant old growth forests near Port Renfrew. No one, other than the money huggers, thought it was a good idea, and said as much quite loudly.

The NDP/Green government, that never should have put the old growth up for sale in the first place, have relented, and the auction never took place. For now.

The cashoterrorists will be back, though. They will keep on coming until all the old growth is gone, or until we get up off our couches and stop them.

What happened in the Port Renfrew forest shows that more of us are up and ready to fight for what is left.

Tree hugging, good. Money hugging, not so much.


Save BC's Old-Growth Forests

More government lies in order to gift Canada's largest, irreplaceable trees to logging interests.

When I started this blog 10 years ago it was born out of my love for BC's big trees, and my desire to see them all protected. A decade later and they are as imperilled as ever, regardless of which government party is "managing" them. 

Today the NDP government talks of "sustainable harvesting in old growth forests. I assume, therefore, that they have a viable 1,000 year plan for these trees, because that is the only way you could do a sustainable harvest in ancient forests.

Currently cut areas in BC's forests are slated for being re-logged in a 30 to 80 year cycle. How does this sustain the old growth? It does not.

Trees and forests aren't even recognized as old growth until they are at least 250 years old. The oldest old growth forests in BC date from the end of the last ice age 10,000 years old. 

So, Minister Donaldson, show us your comprehensive 1,000 year plan for the sustainable harvest of old growth.

The following is from Save BC's Old-Growth Forests on Facebook:

Evolving over millennia, BC's old-growth forests are a non-renewable resource under BC's current system of forestry, where second-growth forests are typically re-logged every 30-80 years, never to become old-growth again. 
And with close to 80% of productive old-growth forests on Vancouver Island having already been cut, the BC NDP need to wake up and realize there's NO SUCH THING as "sustainable" logging of endangered old-growth forests. 😡 
TAKE ACTION TODAY BY:⏩ 1) Sending a message to the BC government demanding protection for BC's ancient forests and a shift to a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry: www.ancientforestalliance.org/send-a-message 
⏩ 2) Contacting your local MLA and asking them to stand up for ancient forests: www.ancientforestalliance.org/contact-your-mla  


400 + Foot Douglas Fir Trees More Than Mythical

Some articles you read on historical big trees in Cascadia's region talk about the biggest of the big (the +400 footers) in mythical terms, as if they were no more than loggers tall tales. 

But big tree people know differently - the huge Douglas fir trees existed. What a shame that they don't any more. As far as we currently know...


The Man Who Saved Big Lonely Doug

Dennis Cronin standing in front of the giant tree he saved.
Photo credit: Lorraine Cronin

In 2014, just as I was moving from Vancouver Island, BC to Nova Scotia, the tree which has become to be known as Big Lonely Doug was discovered by big tree protectors in a former stand of old growth not far from Port Renfrew. 

The giant Douglas fir tree was not hard to find - it was the only tree left in a clear cut block that used to be an ancient grove, and it was hard to miss.

As it turns out, the tree still stands due to the efforts of Mr. Cronin, an industry engineer, that may have been the first person to ever see it. 

To read the fascinating story of how this amazing specimen, the second largest fir in Canada, was saved, click here.

The only Douglas fir tree larger is the Red Creek Fir. This is another significant tree that was also destined for destruction, but was preserved by a logging crew that could not bring themselves to cut such a gigantic tree down.

There goes the neighbourhood.
This is why Big Lonely Doug is so lonely. 
But, better lonely than dead.
Photo credit: TJ Watt

I have never seen the tree that Dennis Cronin, who after decades in the woods and marking untold numbers of giant Pacific Forest trees for removal, decided to save. But the next time I am in Canada's big tree country again, I will.

And when I do, I will think about the man who chose to save Big Lonely Doug, one of the tallest trees (70.2 metres, 230 ft - the height of an 21 story building) he had ever seen, and I will give thanks for his decision.

On a final note, Mr. Cronin died shortly after retiring from his forestry job. By that time he could see that the end of the big trees had come. 

Perhaps his signature tree was one small (or big, depending on how you look at it) way of making amends.

Click here to see the Ancient Forest Alliance Big Trees Map "created with driving directions to Avatar Grove (home to Canada’s “Gnarliest Tree”), Big Lonely Doug (Canada’s 2nd largest Douglas-fir), the Red Creek Fir (the world’s largest Douglas-fir tree), San Juan Spruce (one of Canada’s largest spruce trees), Harris Creek Spruce (another giant sitka spruce), and more!"


Big Trees + Big Wind = Power Outages and Crushed Cars

After a fierce winter storm I toured Sooke, BC to assess the damage. It was extensive.

The west coast has had its share of gnarly weather this winter, with vast and prolonged power outages. And probably more than a few crushed vehicles.

It reminds me of when I was living on Billing Spit in Sooke, BC. It was there, on the top floor of an older 3 floor waterfront apartment building, that I experienced one of the scariest weather events of my life.

A December wind storm hit just before Christmas. With gusts over 100km, the storm initially woke me up as my bed, and the whole building, was shaking. 

The air pressure had blown all the water out of the sink drain traps in our apartment, and the air rushing through the pipes was making a wailing sound like I have never heard before, or since.

My wife and I retrieved our Bug Out Bags, and set them by the front door. We were ready to evacuate and seek shelter somewhere safer. Preferably, somewhere where there weren't waves crashing over the sea wall and spraying on to our front balcony.

We looked out our back window to see our building caretaker fighting off a large piece of vinyl siding wrapped around him, threatening to launch him into the dark night sky.

In the end, we rode out the storm in our shaking and vibrating unit. Escape was impossible, unless we left on foot, since there were large trees down everywhere, including in our parking lot. 

The next morning, when the wind subsided, I went out to see that the roof of the twin building next door ripped completely off, and landed in the parking lot behind the building. Our neighbours were homeless for weeks until repairs were completed.

We were all without power for almost a week.

Our roof stayed put, perhaps due to the fact that our building, unlike the one next door, had large trees protecting it. 

The big trees giveth, the big trees taketh away. 

But I love them all the same.


Big Coastal Christmas Trees

One of the big conifers in the distance is decorated with two bald eagles at the top
Note: originally posted December 18, 2011.

I went for a walk today to look for Christmas and it was nowhere to be seen. There was no snow or hanging icicles, and it was sunny and a balmy +9 degrees Celsius. However, we do have some of the largest Christmas trees in the world growing here, and I discovered some nice ones.

Conifers are the traditional Christmas trees of choice, and the Pacific coastal forest is dominated by conifers. Douglas-fir is the second most popular Christmas tree sold in North America. Young trees have a nice conical shape, and the needles are sweet smelling when crushed. But if you like your trees big, and alive, this is the place to see them. We are at the edge of coastal Douglas-fir territory in Sooke.

The biggest Douglas-fir in the world grows near here in the woods close to Port Renfrew. You would need a lot of tinsel for that behemoth, which is 73.8m (242') in height, 13.3m (43.7') in circumference, and 4.2m (14') in diameter. But I wasn't looking in Port Renfrew for big trees as I wanted to stick closer to home.

Big Sitka spruce overlooking beach
The place I went exploring for giant conifers was in the Wiffen Spit neighbourhood. There I found a right of way leading to a set of stairs down to the beach. It is a great place to see big trees on the top of the high banks, as well as those that have fallen below or washed in off the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We celebrate trees and their importance this time of year when we hack one out of the forest and bring it into our homes to dry up and die. Then they are unceremoniously dumped at the curbside. Here in clear cut territory, it seems like an extravagant waste.

If you go without the traditional indoor dead tree this year, and you are in the Sooke region, Wiffin Spit is the place to go to see a live tree that is anonymously decorated every year.

The Wiffin Spit tree is a short hike from the parking lot, and is now the most notable live decorated tree in town since town council grinches gave the green light about a year ago to remove two beautiful, completely healthy heritage Douglas-fir trees right in the center of town. Read about their sad demise here.

Biggest Christmas tree on Vancouver Island until being
unceremoniously cut down by The Grinch
The 150 year old Douglas-fir trees were replaced by two 2m tall exotic Norway spruce. I noticed the other day that one was decorated, but it just doesn't measure up to the giant it replaced.

Happy holidays.


Moving On

This is my new forest - the Acadian Forest of Nova Scotia.

The Vancouver Island Big Trees blog began as a way to share my experiences visiting some of the biggest trees around Victoria, Sooke and up West Coast Road to Port Renfrew and beyond. I wanted it to be both a celebration of the west coast's primal forests and trees, and a warning that if we don't start fighting for what is left, it will be gone forever.

Even before moving to the Pacific temperate rain forest for a decade, I visited from the prairies annually from the time I was old enough to drive. It was then that I fell in love with walking the beaches and forest trails of Vancouver Island. I found the trees to be huge and magical.

When I started this blog I lived in the midst of big tree country in the former logging town of Sooke, BC. Even after 20 years of exploring the big trees, I was still mystified how a human that would be lucky to get 100 years, could destroy a tree 1000s of years old.

Over this time I have been rewarded by ancient tree encounters that were life changing, as well as encounters with the ugly side of industrial liquidation and government neglect, that were equally as moving.

I have since moved to my new forest, and one that is perhaps not as tall, but every bit as magical - the Acadian forest of Nova Scotia. They are smaller, but there are big trees here, too. And the diversity of trees in this forest is an amazing thing that will keep me busy learning for years to come.

Nova Scotian forests are also under relentless assault from industrial, profit-minded businesses that don't care if they are destroying an entity that has been living and thriving since the last ice age. It is too bad, because in Canada this forest is every bit as unique as the great Western Rainforest of Vancouver Island.

This is not boreal forest (the largest intact forest left on our planet... for now). It is not the great deciduous forest of the southern USA. This forest is a unique blend of both, and I intend on exploring it every bit as much as I did the forest out west.

Having said that, I do like to keep up on what is happening in the west coast forest, and plan on doing the occasional post on this blog as well. In the meantime, I hike and photograph the Acadian Forest looking for the biggest of the big trees out here.

You can visit my new blog, "Acadian Forest Big Trees" here. I hope to add to it and develop the same following this blog has had since 2009. Thank you to everyone that has made keeping this blog so satisfying. Your interest, and visits, are appreciated.

Long live the big trees, wherever they may be.


Tree of Life Gets Little Respect

Wolf head canoe in Sooke River estuary approaching T'souke Nation
Tribal Journey, 2009 - photo by Trickster Art

In the coastal forest the Western red-cedar is known as the "tree of life". It is a good name for a tree that can maintain its own life for thousands of years. Although it is British Columbia's official tree, it currently gets little respect.

The cedar's downfall? Too useful, too profitable, and too vulnerable.

Unfinished cedar canoe on Haida Gwaii

Red-cedar has helped maintain human life on the coast for thousands of years. It has provided coastal First Nations with planks for homes, and large trunks for canoes and totem poles, the tall poles carved with family histories.

The tree of life also provides material for boxes, rope, clothes, and carvings. But for how long?

Cedar provides durable wood for canoes, long houses, totem poles, and more.

Increasingly, large red-cedar trees are becoming rare as logging companies vie for the last of the big ones. Finding large trees is becoming a global problem as native forests continue to disappear at an alarming rate.

In 1998, when Hawaiian canoe makers combed the islands for a native tree large enough to suit their purposes, they spent 9 months looking, and eventually gave up. They concluded that trees big enough for large canoe building were extinct.

Canoe makers on Haida Gwaii have also encountered difficulty in sourcing large Western red-cedar suitable for canoes and totem poles.

Haida totem pole made from cedar

The largest known Western red-cedar canoe in the world was carved in Sooke, BC by canoe makers from the T'Sou-ke First Nation in the early 1990's. The canoe, named KWA Q YUK, is 52 feet long.

Will there still be cedars big enough for a grand vessel of this size seven generations from now? Or even one generation?

The BC government must manage our public forests far better in order to ensure a sustainable yield of large Western red-cedar for cultural, and other uses. It is a job we have entrusted to them, and for decades they have failed.

Ending clearcut old growth logging as we know it today will help.

It is time to humble ourselves before the tree of life, not to mention before the peoples, and our hosts, that require this amazing tree to maintain their traditional ways of life.

You can do your part by refusing to purchase any old growth cedar for any reason. Even better, we can refuse to buy any products that originate in our disappearing primal forests.


Mystery Tree

There are many fantastical things in an old forest. As evidence of this, a Vancouver Island Big Trees blog reader sent two photographs showing trees in the Victoria area. 

Their branching pattern looks more like calligraphy than anything. They dance and swing in a celebration of the temperate rainforest, one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. But who are the dancers? 

"What kind of trees are these?" the reader asked. 


I have a species in mind, but am wondering what readers think. What kind of tree in the coastal forest has such a bold branching pattern? Can you solve this mystery?

You can record your educated guess in the comment section below. Or just enjoy these beautiful photos of the magical calligraphy of old, undisturbed forests. What a joy to see their dance, and hear their story.

Note: If I remember correctly, these trees were photographed in Francis King Regional Park.

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