Giant tree found in North Vancouver could be Canada’s fourth widest

Jun 27, 2022 | News Coverage

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June 25, 2022
The Squamish Reporter

Two big tree hunters from Vancouver have just identified the fourth-widest known tree in Canada: an ancient western redcedar tentatively measured at over 5.8 metres (19.1 feet) in diameter and well over a thousand years old.

Nicknamed “The North Shore Giant”, this ancient colossus was found by Colin Spratt, a Vancouver big-tree hunter, and Ian Thomas of the Ancient Forest Alliance, on an expedition deep into the remote reaches of Vancouver’s Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in the territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Lynn Valley has long been renowned for its giant trees. In fact, the tallest trees on Earth might once have grown there, but aggressive logging in the 19th and early 20th centuries eliminated most of those superlative forests. Throughout much of Lynn Valley, gargantuan, castle-like stumps are all that remain of the ancient trees that once dominated the region.

However, in the depths of the watershed, far from the established trails, are remnants of that original old-growth forest – enormous trees many centuries old, still surviving a stone’s throw from the thriving metropolis of Vancouver.

“Finding this colossal ancient tree just demonstrates the sublime grandeur of these old-growth temperate rainforests,” stated Ancient Forest Alliance researcher Ian Thomas. “Luckily this incredible being and the impressive grove in which it stands is safe in a park. Most of our richest ancient forests are still unprotected and in danger of being logged. Even now in Canada, in the year 2022, trees as old as this giant, and entire groves like this one, are still being cut down on an industrial scale.”

The terrain is extremely rugged, with sheer cliffs, treacherous boulder fields, steep ravines, and dense underbrush, which has allowed these monumental trees to remain hidden for so long. The North Shore Giant grows on the slopes west of Lynn Creek on a boulder field among other magnificent ancient redcedars. Further groves of giant trees are found nearby, including one containing Canada’s fifth widest known western hemlock, identified mere hours before the North Shore Giant. The area represents one of the most magnificent tracts of productive ancient forest left in BC.

Colin Spratt and Ian Thomas set out to fully document and explore this incredible ancient forest. On their second expedition and after bushwacking for 10 hours, they finally arrived at the North Shore Giant and realized that this could be the widest tree that has been found in Canada in over 34 years. The current diameter measurement is a preliminary one, following the methodology of the American Forest Association’s Champion Trees Program, which has been the standard used by BC’s own official big-tree registry. Soon, members of the British Columbia Big Tree Committee will visit the tree to confirm the diameter and take official height and crown measurements for entry into BC’s Big Tree Registry.

“When I first saw the tree, I froze in my tracks and the blood drained from my face. I started getting dizzy as I realized it was one of the largest cedars ever found, and one of the most amazing life forms left on earth. Finding this tree is an incredible reminder of what is still out there in the less explored old-growth forests. It’s sobering to realize that in so many areas of BC, unprotected trees and groves just as rare and precious are still being cut down,” said big-tree hunter Colin Spratt.

“This is one of the most remarkable big-tree finds of this century and it just shows how special the old-growth forests in BC are. Unfortunately, unless the BC government hurries up and provides the critical funding – several hundred million dollars more, which is peanuts if you look at their other massive spending projects – they will ensure that the status quo of industrial clearcutting of the last unprotected old-growth stands occurs. In particular, support for Indigenous old-growth protection initiatives and the associated sustainable economic development in the communities is needed, along with a major, dedicated land acquisition fund to purchase and protect old-growth forests on private lands. They can fix all of this if they wanted to in their upcoming budget,” said TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer.

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Working to protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, second-growth forest industry.