World’s Largest Douglas fir Threatened by Proposed Logging in Adjacent Old-Growth Forest
Media Release, March 4, 2010
A new proposed logging cutblock near the world’s largest Douglas fir tree, the Red Creek Fir, has been identified as that of TimberWest, a BC-based logging company. The Red Creek Fir, located 15 kilometers east of Port Renfrew, is recognized as the largest Douglas Fir Tree on Earth, with enough wood to make 349 telephone poles (ie. 349 cubic meters in total timber volume – see http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hre/bigtrees/docs/BigTreeRegistry.pdf). It is 73.8 meters in height and has a trunk 4.2 meters wide (Diameter-at-Breast-Height or DBH).
In a recent conversation with Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner TJ Watt, a TimberWest representative confirmed that the flagging tape labelled “falling boundary” was likely laid out by the company. The BC government`s BC Timber Sales division, the only other possible source of logging activity in the area, has stated that they have no cutblocks planned immediately adjacent to the Red Creek Fir. The TimberWest representative also stated that flagging had been done “as part of an early exploratory mission” for future logging, which she stated they would "defer for one to two years”.
“It would be insane to allow a cutblock beside the largest Douglas fir tree on Earth. Not only will this ruin the experience for visitors with a new clearcut, but it will endanger the tree itself by exposing it to being blown down by strong West Coast winds. We believe that it is the BC Liberal government’s obligation to protect the surrounding Crown lands and to purchase the adjacent private lands to protect the ecosystem where the Red Creek Fir survives, to ensure the area’s integrity for biodiversity, tourism, recreation, and other important values. This should also include protection of the San Juan Spruce, just a few kilometres away, Canada’s largest spruce tree,” stated Ken Wu, co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance (www.ancientforestalliance.org). “The Capital Regional District and federal government could also play important roles to facilitate the area’s protection. Most importantly, the BC Liberal government must commit to undertaking a Provincial Old-Growth Strategy to ensure the protection of the remaining old-growth forests in BC where they are scarce, such as on Vancouver Island, around the Lower Mainland, and in the southern Interior, while ensuring the sustainable logging of second-growth stands.”
The Red Creek Fir stands along the edge of the public-private lands divide on Vancouver Island, slightly on the public (Crown) lands side of the divide by a few dozen meters. About 20% of Vancouver Island was privatized over 100 years ago through the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (“E&N”) Land Grant to a coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, and the lands are now primarily owned by TimberWest, Island Timberlands, and Western Forest Products. The lands are public (Crown) to the northwest side of the Red Creek Fir, while lands to the southeast – literally within a few dozen meters - are privately held by TimberWest. A BC Ministry of Forests and Range spokesperson stated last week that the Red Creek Fir lies within a Forest Service Recreation Site, a tenuous designation that confers no legislated protection for the area and that can be easily removed on the whims of a Forest Service manager.
Along with establishing a comprehensive Provincial Old-Growth Strategy, the Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC Liberal government to establish a Provincial Heritage Trees designation that will identify and immediately protect the 100 largest and oldest specimens of each of BC’s tree species. Currently there is no provincial legislation that specifically protects the largest or oldest specimens of BC’s world-reknowned old-growth trees.
“If we have laws that recognize and protect Heritage Buildings that are 100 years old, why don’t we have laws that recognize and protect our 1000 year old Heritage Trees? How many jurisdictions have trees that can grow as wide as a living room and as tall as a downtown skyscraper,” states TJ Watt, photographer and explorer with the Ancient Forest Alliance. “Not only do we need to save heritage trees, we need to protect the last old-growth ecosystems in southern BC where the old-growth is scarce, while ensuring sustainable second-growth forestry in appropriate places and ending the export of raw logs to protect BC forestry jobs. They’ve already logged almost 90% of the old-growth forests on the south island, including 99% of the ancient Douglas firs. It should be a no-brainer to protect what’s left of the old-growth here.”
Through BC government neglect, the old information sign at the Red Creek Fir itself has been smashed by falling branches and left to rust on the ground for several years. Members of the Ancient Forest Alliance have erected a new sign to replace the old sign. Local tourism operators in Port Renfrew last summer also erected directional signs leading to the largest trees in the area.
“One gets the impression that the BC Liberal government doesn’t want to promote the existence of BC’s magnificent old-growth trees, despite their importance for tourism, endangered species, and the climate, and despite the fact they are some of the largest trees on Earth,” states TJ Watt. “For example, there are no government signs or indications on the whereabouts of two of the largest trees in the world, the San Juan Spruce, Canada’s largest spruce tree, and the Red Creek Fir, the world’s largest Douglas Fir tree, both found on public lands near Port Renfrew. Local tourism operators from Port Renfrew had to make their own signs and erect them along the roads a few months ago.”
British Columbia is home to the world’s largest Douglas fir (the Red Creek Fir near Port Renfrew – height 73.8 meters, diameter 4.2 meters), the world’s second largest western redcedar (the Cheewhat Cedar by the West Coast Trail/ Nitinat Lake – height 55.5 meters, diameter 5.8 meters), and the world’s second largest Sitka spruce tree (the San Juan Spruce by Port Renfrew – height 62.5 meters, diameter 3.7 meters). Hundreds of other near record-size ancient trees are found throughout the province, most of which don’t have any official recognition or protection. The oldest tree found in BC was an ancient yellow cedar tree logged on the Sunshine Coast in the 1980’s; the tree was almost 1900 years old by the time it was cut down.
The BC Ministry of Forests and Range does have a “Register of Big Trees in BC” website (http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hre/bigtrees/index.htm), which lists the top 10 largest trees of each species in the province (based on height, circumference, and crown spread). However, the registry does not confer any legal protection to any of the trees, most of which are located outside of parks.
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