Big trees close to home

From an email by Jocie to the Botany Group on March 1.

While going through some books I came across a copy of Randy Stoltman’s classic Hiking Guide to the Big Trees of Southwestern British Columbia from the early 1990s. Stoltman was an advocate for BC’s forests and the protection of old growth, and he started BC’s big tree registry, which is now managed by UBC. Tragically, Stoltman lost his life while on a ski trip in 1994.

The current registry includes a list of “champion trees,” which are the largest trees of each species determined by a score based on height, diameter and crown. The registry also has listings of many additional big trees, and anyone can nominate a tree. Unfortunately, the registry does not mean that any of these trees are protected. You can check out the registry here.

I had big trees on my mind while taking a walk in Miracle Beach Provincial Park on the weekend. I got the kids involved, and we identified the 5 largest Douglas-firs in the park. Some of these rare old growth firs escaped logging, and also the devastating fire of 1938 which swept through much of the Black Creek and Merville area. [See photos at right and below.]

Just for fun, we measured the DBH (diameter breast height) of each of these top 5 and the winner was the large fir that stands right at the campground entrance, at 2.06 metres. Interestingly, there is a fir in Kitty Coleman Provincial Park in the big tree registry that is 2.75 metres. The largest Douglas fir in BC is the Red Creek fir in the Port Renfrew area, with a whopping DBH of 4.23 metres.

 Looking at things from an arboreal perspective, it hits home just how much old growth forest we have lost and continue to lose on Vancouver Island. Photographer TJ Watt captured some before and after images of logging in the Caycuse watershed in 2020 which have received international attention. Here is an article about it in the Narwahl, This is just one example of what is happening to the last remnants of old growth forest. Around 9000-10,000 hectares of old growth forest continue to be logged each year on Vancouver Island, and many of the big trees chronicled in Stoltman’s book are long gone.

The Ancient Forest Alliance  and Western Wilderness Committee  are good sources of information on what’s really going on in the woods, and how one can take action. The AFA also has some inspiring short videos here.

Here are a few more photos of the big trees of Miracle Beach Park. Though they aren’t going to be contenders as “champions” they are certainly impressive in their own right! [Click a photo to enlarge it.]

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