5 things to know about this old growth tree

Published 2021-06-02 11:50

It was cut down last year

Old growth tree “unboxed”  Who: People on social media all over the world shared this photo last week. What: It’s a massive old growth tree on the back of a truck. Where: On a highway in British Columbia. When: Well, here's the thing. People were sharing it as though it had been freshly logged. Turns out it was cut in 2020. Why: It happened months before new rules were introduced to protect giant trees. That has since changed ... somewhat. Read on to learn more.

1. Why was this tree cut down?

This massive spruce tree was cut down between March and August 2020 on Vancouver Island, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Forests.

A spokesperson said it was moved, put in storage and was later sold.

Last week, it was being transported to Port Alberni for processing.

That’s when a woman named Lorna Beecroft saw the tree on the highway, took a picture and shared it on social media.

This photo of a massive old growth tree was shared thousands of times on social media last week. (Image submitted by Lorna Beecroft)

Forestry is a huge industry in B.C.

According to the province, exports in forestry contribute more than $11 billion to the economy.

About 50,000 British Columbians, including 5,300 Indigenous people, work in the industry.

The wood is used for high-end and specialty products such as fine furniture and musical instruments.

This tree is going to be turned into guitar parts, specifically 3,000 soundboards at a company called Acoustic Woods Ltd.

A woman protesting the logging of old growth trees sits at the foot of an ancient yellow cedar in September 2020. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

2. Why was there an outcry?

Many people seemed to think the tree had just been cut down.

On Sept. 11, 2020, new rules came into effect, preventing some old trees like this from being logged (or cut down) or damaged.

It’s called the Special Tree Protection Regulation and it protects trees that are exceptionally large and that have important cultural, aesthetic or ecological value.

But old growth trees that don’t meet those requirements are still being cut down. 

Many activists say old growth trees should be protected because they are an important part of the ecosystem.

A sign at a protest site reads No Trees No Future

Protesters have set up camps to prevent old growth trees from being cut down in B.C. (Image credit: (Keiran Oudshoorn/CBC)

3. What do B.C.'s old growth forests look like?

The government of British Columbia says the characteristics of an old growth forest are different, based on where the forest is located and what trees are growing there.

But if you're walking through a B.C. forest and see a combination of dead trees, decomposing wood, large trees and plants such as ferns, shrubs, mosses and lichens, you might be walking through an old growth forest.

Another way to identify an old growth tree is by its age.

Trees that are more than 250 years old and in coastal forests in B.C. are considered old growth. In B.C.’s interior forests, trees that are 140 years old or older are considered old growth.

Two owls in a tree

Northern spotted owls thrive in old growth forests. Environmentalists say their decline is linked to logging. (Image credit: Jared Hobbs/Ecojustice)

4. What are the rules around cutting old growth?

In B.C., rules are in place to protect these old trees from being cut down.

Scientists say they are important to help deal with climate change.

They are also rich in biodiversity, which means they support many other animal and plant species, including some which cannot live in any other type of habitat.

10 million hectares out of 13.7 million hectares of old growth are protected or not economical to harvest, according to the province of British Columbia.

In June 2020, a panel of independent scientists produced a report showing that the oldest trees in B.C. in some of the most lush, biodiverse forests were on the brink of extinction.

5. What’s happening to old growth trees in B.C. now?

Currently, a company called Teal-Jones has been cutting down old growth trees near Port Renfrew — legally.

A map showing where Port Renfrew, B.C. is located. It's in southern Vancouver Island.

Spokesperson Jack Gardner said the company has planted more than 44 million trees in British Columbia over the past 25 years.

“We do believe in environmental stewardship, but also logging a working forest,” Gardner said.

Protesters have been trying to block the site since August 2020 so workers can’t get in.

A protester known as Lou climbs up to a boat he set up in an old growth tree he’s trying to protect. He says he wants to save endangered habitats. (Image credit: Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

Some of the trees there are 800 years old.

With files from Yvettee Brend, Chad Pawson, Kieran Oudshoorn, Doug Kerr/CBC News

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that most old growth trees are more than 60 metres high. In fact, most old growth forests contain small trees. Old growth trees are defined by their age, not their height.

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