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A love of big trees rewarded

Times Colonist - Pedro Arrais, December 6, 2014

A love of big trees rewarded
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Photo by TJ Watt

Dr. Al Carder was recently awarded the 2014 Forest Sustainability Award from the Ancient Forest Alliance for his decades of service to document, research and promote the conservation of old-growth trees in British Columbia.

The 104-year-old Carder is considered the oldest forest conservationist in the province. His relationship with giant trees began in 1917, when he was seven and he helped his father measure a tall tree near their home in the lower Fraser Valley. He went on to become Canada’s first agrometeorologist after earning a doctorate in plant ecology.

In his retirement, he and his wife, Mary, set off on a “World Big Tree Hunt,” with Mary often being used as human scale next to giant trees in photographs he took of his finds. His work was published in two books: Forest Giants of the World, Past and Present (1995) and Giant Trees of North America and the World (2005).

“Al Carder was researching and raising awareness about B.C.’s biggest trees years before old-growth forests became an issue of popular concern in this province,” said Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “His work decades ago on the most iconic parts of our old-growth forests, their unbelievably huge trees, helped to lay the foundation of public awareness that fostered the rise of the subsequent ancient-forest movement.”

Carder’s children, Judith, Mary-Clare and Andrew, accepted the award on behalf of their father, who is currently ill with pneumonia.

Along with his books, Carder is perhaps best known for his work to highlight the Red Creek Fir, the world’s largest known Douglas-fir tree, located in the San Juan Valley near Port Renfrew. Since then, the town has become known as the Tall Trees Capital of Canada, with tourists from around the world coming to visit the Red Creek Fir, nearby Avatar Grove and the Walbran and Carmanah valleys.

The Ancient Forest Alliance is a B.C.-based conservation group working to protect endangered old-growth forests and to ensure a sustainable, second-growth forest industry. For more information, go to

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