It’s a quiet evening amidst the pandemic, and I am in my usual spot outdoors, on a picnic bench close to a small patch of forest on one side, and a road and residential buildings on another. Birds chirped, cars hummed nearby.
Young coniferous trees — still magnificently tall in grandeur — watched quietly over me as I sketched one of their last remaining predecessors — a colossal Douglas-fir estimated to be over 1000 years old.
Big Lonely Doug is an ancient (by our standards) Douglas-fir that stands amidst a clearcut, the only old growth tree in its area that was saved when the area was logged. It was saved by logger Dennis Cronin, who was marking the area of the forest to be logged for timber. In what is now a fateful act, he took out a green ribbon — the only one he used that day — and marked “Leave Tree.”
In less than a year — and less than 5 or 10 minutes for each tree — every tree in the old-growth forested area that Big Lonely Doug had grown up in for over 1000 years, would be gone.
In coastal British Columbia, 99% of old growth Douglas-fir siblings have been logged. Big Lonely Doug (aptly named as a play on the species name) is one of the only ones left.
Once old growth forests are gone — they are gone forever (at least in our lifetimes). The complex ecosystems and relationships that form them, take thousands and thousands of years to develop, and planting new trees — whilst still a good thing to do — is no substitute for preserving old forests. New-growth forests, when logged every few decades, never have the chance to grow old.
In British Columbia, the vast majority of old-growth is gone. The direct impact of this — including but not limited to the record setting heat waves and fires — can be felt by humans, but the other impacts on the wildlife and lost biodiversity, are just as devastating.
It is crucial to maintain old-growth, even in an economy that has strong ties to logging/forestry.
Indigenous people of the area have been living sustainably and in peace with nature and the lands around them since time immemorial. We need to listen to them, and respect the lands that were stolen from them.
Towering nearly the height of a 20 story building, today Big Lonely Doug still stands alone in a clearing of stumps and the fragments of fallen trees.