"Giants like this will not be seen again
for five or ten centuries, perhaps never."
Randy Stoltman, Big Trees (1987)
Never mind Olympic hockey, I'm rooting for the ancient forest Big Tree Olympians - the heroes of big tree preservation. The Pacific coast forest has some of the biggest trees around, and thankfully, it has individuals that have worked for years, usually without pay or recognition, to protect this vanishing
10 000 year old forest ecosystem.
I thought it fitting during the 2010 Winter Olympics that VIBT hands out a few medals of its own in recognition of those who have gone Citius, Altius, Fortius in their passion and dedication to the big trees and the things that live among them.
Often these defenders of the voiceless and powerless do their work at great personal sacrifice, up against well-funded corporate lawyers, an endless drive toward growth and profit, and intransigent government officials.
Tourism BC's recently revamped website states that "much of Vancouver Island is protected parkland", and that it contains "many pockets" of old growth forest.
What it does not tell you is that the grandeur of these disappearing islands of isolated ancient trees is surrounded by industrial clear cuts and 2nd or 3rd growth tree plantations. 75% of Vancouver Islands original forest has been logged.
Cheewhat Cedar, Pacific Rim National Park
Since saving the big trees is a cooperative effort, rather than a competitive one, the Big Tree Hunter Olympian Awards are non-hierarchical dendro-medals. There are no losers here - everyone wins.
Randy Stoltman Grove, Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park
In no particular order, VIBT salutes the following enthusiasts who have worked tirelessly in the defense of big trees and ancient forests. Their dedication will allow future generations to see that at one time giants inhabited the Pacific coastal forest:
The Cedar Medal: Maywell Wickheim, Sooke: discovered the Cheewhat Cedar, Canada's largest tree. Has guided many hikes while educating others about the beauty and importance of big trees and wild places.
The Douglas fir Medal: Paul George, Gibsons: co-founder of Western Canada Wilderness Committee, an organization that has been educating the public and lobbying to ban the logging and exporting of ancient B.C. forests since 1980. They have an admirable list of successful campaigns including Clayoquot Sound, the largest area of ancient temperate rain forest left on Vancouver Island.
The Sitka spruce Medal: Randy Stoltman, deceased: big tree enthusiast and campaigner for WCWC. Discovered the tallest Sitka spruce trees in the world in the Carmanah watershed, and fought for protection of the area. Carmanah/Walbran Provincila Park, including the Randy Stoltman Grove, is a stunning cathedral of mist and green.
VIBT 'boughs' before the generous efforts of these Olympians.
The very pockets of old growth Tourism BC is touting on it's website would be gone if not for people like the award recipients.
Hanging Garden Tree, Meares Island, Clayoquot Sound
Western Canada Wilderness Committee reports that 13% of Vancouver Islands's total land base is protected, but this includes only 6 % of its productive forests.
The remaining 94% of forests, including what is left of the old growth, is for industry, I guess. Unless we do something about it. Even Olympians need support.
Ask questions and avoid purchasing old growth wood products. Write your political representatives demanding an end to old growth destruction. Donate to forest preservation groups. Wipe with only 100% post-consumer toilet paper. Use alternatives, like rags, to disposable paper products. And see the big trees to see what we are in danger of losing.
Do you know someone who is working to save big trees and ancient forests? Please leave a comment here, or contact me via my profile to nominate for next year's 2nd Annual VIBT Big Tree Olympian Awards.