Take Us To Your Tree People

"Sorry, we are looking for intelligent life forms with patience and a sustainable, cooperative attitude."

"Greetings gentle tree people, carriers of sustainable, cooperative approaches to living. You have so much to share. If we were looking for a cooperative, sustainable model to emulate, your forest ecosystem would be unsurpassed.
Thousands of species working together in perfect harmony resulting in a stable system that can last little unchanged for many eons. Until those pesky suit-wearing humans intervene."

Intelligent life forms know that driving entire ecosystems to extinction is not a good idea. Here is hoping that the new year brings you, the enlightened reader, plenty of forest experiences that motivate you to join the growing chorus to save the last of the old growth on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and around the world.

Happy new year. Happy better year.

"Beam me up. After they killed all the trees there's no intelligent life left down here."


Sooke Solstice Tree

We don't set up a tree indoors this time of year - there are plenty of beautiful trees just outside.

Our Solstice Tree does not need to be cut down and consumed, then thrown in the garbage or chipped. It does not need to be decorated, either.

Our tree has Old Man's Beard hanging lichen that looks just like green tinsel. The drops of morning dew hanging on the lichen and the needles are strings of little lights glinting brilliantly with the sun's rays.

The branches are adorned by chirping chickadees and brilliant crested kingfishers. Up top instead of an angel, a Great blue heron or two tops off our wildlife-trimmed tree.

Happy solstice!

Do visit Vancouver Island Big Trees in the new year, and together we will explore, and save, the old growth.


Winter Storms Pound Local Beaches

On Florencia Bay, Tofino, driftwood is strewn across the upper beach
Recent strong winds across the region canceled 75 ferry sailings, knocked power out, and gave spectacular displays of tree-tossing turmoil on local beaches.

Florencia Bay, Tofino
Often giant pieces and whole trees were high on the beach, seemingly beyond the water's reach. When I first started visiting the west coast of Vancouver Island, I marveled at the tumble of drift logs on most beaches.

Having visited only in the summer time, I wondered how the logs could get so far from the placid water. When I moved here I witnessed coastal winter storms for myself, and discovered the awesome power of wind, water, and waves. Any drift wood caught in such a storm doesn't stand a chance.

Huge white-foamy waves cover wilderness beaches and toss old growth drift trees like rubber ducks in a turbulent tub. Logs bob in the surf and are driven up against the beach, eventually coming to rest along the edge of the rain forest.

Big waves toss big logs over the beach on Ross Bay in Victoria, BC during a recent storm
In the city, waves drive logs over concrete embattlements and into the street. After strong south-easterly storms, heavy equipment must be brought it to clear large chunks of drift wood debris.

Summers on the coast are nice with calm weather and stretches of drought, but to witness the full fury and power of the Pacific, you have to do some winter storm watching.

Watch out for rogue waves. 


Mossy Maples

Moss covered Bigleaf Maples, Sooke River

Every season is a good one to be out in the forest. Right now, for example, with winter solstice just days away, the temperate rain forest is moss-puffy perfection.

With Bigleaf maple tree's branches leafless and visible, the green glowing moss is available for inspection. Of the thousands of different life forms in the forest, only a few have ever been seen and recorded.

Scientists inspecting in the canopy of the old growth forest of Carmanah Valley have found invertebrates, mosses, lichens, fungi, algae, protozoa, and soil bacteria previously undiscovered. 

Many of the species discovered only thrive in forests over a hundred years old.

Winter is a good time for a hike in the temperate rain forest of Vancouver Island

Under the moss on the branches of the maple lies a layer of soil that provides a rich environment for a variety of living things. It is estimated that there are 4 times more species of bacteria in one handful of soil than the number of species of higher plants in all of British Columbia.

Bigleaf maple branches send roots from the top of the branches into this soil and moss layer. The moss and soil give nutrients to these roots in return for the favour of the tree's scaffolding. Both benefit.

With winter rains and no deciduous leaves (except underfoot), now is a great time to take a hike in the forest and enjoy major moss at the peak season for growth and viewing.


The End Of Old Growth Logging

The photo above is the trunk of Te Matua Ngahere, the 'Father of the Forest'.

It is New Zealand's oldest living Kauri tree, and is estimated to be over 2000 yrs old with a girth of 16.41m.

Logging of old growth, or native forest, on public lands has been illegal in New Zealand since 2004.

When people say ending old growth logging "can't be done" in British Columbia, they fail to realize that exactly that has been done in many areas around the world.

[In 2004] New Zealand’s Labor government introduced hard-won legislation that ended logging of publicly owned temperate rainforests. In words unfamiliar to US politicians, Pete Hodgson, the minister responsible for timberlands, told parliament that, “These lowland forests are considered by many New Zealanders to be a unique and significant part of our natural heritage, too valuable for logging of any sort to continue.” 

Read more about New Zealand's forward thinking forest policy here. 


Largest Tree In Victoria, BC Is A Giant Sequoia

 Giant sequoia at Moss and Richardson St.,Victoria, BC. Is this Victoria's largest tree?
Image credit: Myles Green

Southern Vancouver Island enjoys mild coastal weather in a sub-Mediterranean climate. This encourages the growth of some very large Giant sequoias, relatively speaking.

With all the largest native big trees removed long ago, a Giant sequoia import is the largest tree in the Victoria area. Not bad for a species more used to growing farther south in California, where the really big ones live.

One of the big California sequoias. This massive specimen, the President Tree, is the second-most-massive tree
known on Earth. Here it is being measured by Steve Sillett and his team. 

(Image credit: Michael Nichols/National Geographic)

The President is one of the oldest (3,200 years) giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park, California. It's the second-largest tree on Earth, according to Steve Sillett of Humboldt State University. He should know - he climbed it recently and measured it himself.

You can read more about this and other impressive sequoia trees in their native range at National Geographic. The article I linked to has great photos, and mentions Sillett's research finding that some species of trees, including Giant sequoias, grow more rapidly as they age. Trees thousands of years old are not only viable, but are adding new wood faster than ever.

How The President Measures Up

Base of the President Tree

Height above base                                      75.0 m 245.0 ft
Circumference at ground 28.4         93.0
Diameter 1.5 m above base                          7.1           23.1
Diameter 18 m (60') above base 5.2           16.9
Diameter 55 m (180') above base 3.55         11.6
Diameter of largest branch                          2.43         8.0
Height of first large branch above the base 37.1         122.0
Estimated bole volume (m³.ft³) 1,278.0    45,148.0
Age                                                            3,200 years (at least)

The Largest Tree In Victoria, BC 

"One would expect that the native trees such as Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, or Western Red Cedar would be the largest trees in Victoria, B.C. But no, these giants were logged out long ago. 

The largest trees in Victoria are gifts from the state of California where they have preserved some of the largest trees on earth for their citizens and the citizens of the world. 

Tracts of Sequoia and Coastal Redwoods were set aside in the last century and the century before by enlightened Californians whose population is almost as large as Canada's, but whose zest for preserving their natural heritage far exceeds our own.

The Sequoia pictured in the front yard of the home at Moss and Richardson [see photo at top of page] was a seedling given to the people of Victoria in 1858 by the state of California - for many years this was considered the largest tree in Victoria. 

A reputable arborist now considers the large Sequoia in James Bay's Irving Park as the largest tree in Victoria." 

- Myles Green

It looks like Victoria's transplants from the southern sequoia forest will retain the "largest tree in town" designation far into the future. Especially if they grow faster as they age. I will be checking out the James Bay sequoia soon for a future post.

The magnificent Giant sequoias around the Victoria region should be not only a sign of our ties to our southern neighbours, but also a call to action to do the right thing and preserve our remaining old growth natural heritage just as Californians protected theirs so many years ago.


Searching For Evidence of Big Trees

One of several Balch creek giant Douglas fir. Oct, 2008 Photo by Micah

If you are here chances are you recognize and respect the importance of trees, especially the old growth. Do I have a treat for you.

In this post I am pleased to highlight a fellow tree lover and blogger that resides in the big tree state of Washington, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Essentially, we share what was once a continuous coniferous forest that ranged from northern California to Alaska.

photo by Micah
"Macleay Park-Forest Park, Portland. Sep. 2011. One of the larger trees I measured in the Balch creek canyon. 5 ft 6 inches diameter, at 4 1/2  ft. and 242 feet tall. May be one of the tallest trees in Portland, and probably over 300 years old. Forest Park was logged extensively in the 1880-1940′s, and most of the forest is only 50 to 100 years old — with pockets of 200 to 500 year old giants."

Few of the original big trees of the forest remain there, as here, but Micah has made it part of his work to seek out those last holdouts. He has also been conducting historical research to try and get a glimpse at what the forest was like prior to industrial exploitation.

He commented on VIBT recently:
"I tossed together most of the accounts I compiled in the last couple years and some photos I found on the internet and old books into one concise blog post recently-- listing all the Doug references, stories, and measurements of Doug firs from 300 feet and up I could find. There are definitely hundreds more I could add if I had access to museum archives, libraries etc. And a similar list could be compiled of Sitka Spruce, and Noble fir, Grand fir-- and the giant western red cedars. One account mentions a 407 foot cedar tree!!!...Although I am not sure how reliable it is, cool to imagine!"
photo by Micah
 "This giant tree must have originally been over 200 feet, maybe 250 before losing its top and was one of the thickest trees I saw on Whidbey Island. Mere cord wood compared to the largest giants logged in this area which topped 300+ feet. I stand beneath it for scale."

 Check out this post to see some of the results of Micah's work. Amazing trees that are just the "table scraps of a once immense forest".


Cortes Island Ancient Forest Defenders Force Island Timberlands To Table

"Cutting these ancient, threatened Douglas-fir is like shooting a black rino."
Cortes Island ancient forest defenders, led by the community alliance Wildstands, have successfully forced Island Timberlands back to the table in the ongoing struggle to protect the island's last remaining old growth forests.

The original Coastal Douglas-fir forest ecozone, small to begin with, has withstood 100 years of industrial exploitation to the point that only 1% remains. A small part of that 1% resides on beautiful Cortes Island.

The government of BC refuses to meaningfully protect this dwindling resource, and in some cases encourages its destruction through investments in the corporations that are slaughtering the last big trees. Responsibility for protection inevitably falls on the caring shoulders of regular folks in the communities being degraded by continued old growth liquidation.

The people gathered together on Cortes as human shields protecting the last veteran trees (250-500 years old) are often those most affected by the degraded conditions left in the wake of industrial clear cut logging.

Zoe Miles, a member of Wildstands, says, “For more than four years, community members have attempted to work with the company to develop an ecosystem-based approach to forestry.  As road-building equipment moves in, the community is now left with no choice but to stand in its path to defend these ecologically significant forests.”

The group aims to "protect the ancient bio-diversity of Cortes Island, and serves as a forum for discussion of the protection, legislation and conservation of this fragile eco-system".

Wildstands blockaded logging equipment in recent days rather than submit its old-growth temperate rainforest to unsustainable logging practices by Island Timberlands, the second largest private timberlands holding in British Columbia.

The first stage of the blockade has been successful, and IT has agreed not to ask for an injunction against the group for at least one week.

Send Island Timberlands an email if you support old growth protection on Cortes Island. Click here.

Our government should know of your wishes as well. Click here.
"People are here because they want to make it known that the industrial forestry model doesn’t work for local communities and it doesn’t work for the province. Island Timberlands will destroy ecologically sensitive ecosystems and leave nothing beneficial in its wake. We will be left with devastated ecosystems, a contaminated water supply and no long term jobs. All the benefit is going to people who live far away and who aren’t aware of the cost of their profits to our community and our province."  - Leah Seltzer