VICTORIA — Active logging operations are creeping closer to the largest Douglas fir in the world and environmentalists fear the 1,000-year-old tree will be left vulnerable to blowdown and its value as a tourist attraction will be degraded.
"We are extremely angry and frustrated to see this logging nearby what is clearly one of the natural wonders of the world," said Joe Foy, national campaign director for Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
Foy wants the Red Creek fir and surrounding forests included in an expanded Pacific Rim National Park, as suggested by Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin.
TimberWest owns land adjacent to the pocket surrounding the Red Creek fir, 15 kilometres east of Port Renfrew. However, the company is currently logging on Crown land, under a timber sale licence administered by the province, said TimberWest spokeswoman Sue Handel. "The harvest is not taking place on TimberWest-owned land," she said.
The licence is mainly for second-growth hemlock and harvesting is in an area farther from the giant tree than the private land. The Red Creek fir is not at risk from the TimberWest logging, said ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas. "It is in an old-growth management area and forest recreation site. It is in no danger of being logged," she said.
The nearest cutblock boundary is about 500 metres from the Red Creek fir, Thomas said, noting the tree is so tall that surrounding trees wouldn't offer wind protection anyway. College Grants For Women
At almost 74 metres tall and 13.3 metres in girth, the fir has become a destination for tourists in Port Renfrew looking for big trees.
TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance, who has been campaigning for government to buy nearby private lands and protect more Crown land in the area, said it is short-sighted to allow adjacent clearcuts.
"If someone is going to see the biggest Douglas fir in the world, it's not the greatest entrance to walk next to a clearcut," he said.
The San Juan spruce, Canada's largest sitka spruce tree, is in the same area, and it makes little sense to allow logging between the two giant trees, Watt said.
He added the government doesn't seem interested in promoting big trees as a tourist attraction. Local tourism boards have put up their own signs directing tourists to the tree. The Ancient Forest Alliance replaced the smashed provincial sign identifying the Red Creek fir, he said.