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World's largest Douglas fir at risk, fearful environmentalists charge

Logging tape found within 50 metres of ancient Island sentinel, tree lovers say

By Judith Lavoie, Canwest News Service in the Vancouver Sun, February 26, 2010

The world's largest Douglas fir could be at risk, say Vancouver Island environmentalists.

The 74-metre-tall tree towers over the surrounding forest in the Red Creek area east of west coast town of Port Renfrew, about 100 km northwest of Victoria.

But new logging tape marks an area about 50 metres away from the giant tree and environmentalists fear the tourist attraction will shortly be surrounded by a clearcut, making it susceptible to being blown down.

"The San Juan Valley is like a giant wind tunnel and this increases its exposure," said Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance, a Vancouver Island-based environmental organization.

"This is the biggest Douglas fir on earth and it should be a first-class tourist attraction, but people will be walking through a clearcut to get to it. It is totally myopic."

In Port Renfrew, tourists often ask how to find the Red Creek fir, said Chamber of Commerce president John Cash.

Chamber members, who want to see big trees preserved as tourist attractions, recently put up directional signs to the fir so visitors would not get lost on logging roads.

Wu said it appears the area comes under B.C. timber sales designation, meaning the province considers it a cut-block for small businesses.

But Forests Ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas said there are no immediate plans to harvest in the Red Creek fir area.

"In fact they helped improve the road access so people could go view the tree," she said.

"Also, the tree itself is part of a public recreation site, so the immediate area is protected from logging."

The Ancient Forest Alliance is supporting a proposal by Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Liberal MP Keith Martin to extend Pacific Rim National Park down the west coast of Vancouver Island, with an expanded park to include the Red Creek fir.

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