Friday, January 21, 2005


While working on my computer in front of the large picture windows in my cabin, I heard a loud crack. Thinking that a branch, high above me in a fir tree, had broken off under the weight of snow I ran to the doorway in case the windows were smashed by the falling branch. A crash followed by a thud confirmed my suspicion but the cabin had not been struck. I shone a flashlight through the front windows and could only see what appeared to be a large chunk of wood laying outside in the snow. We have had about 16 inches of snow fall and stick here in the past few days which is very unusual for our climate.

Later, when I went outside to investigate I saw that the top 60 feet of a 100 feet tall old growth Douglas fir tree had snapped off and was now lying in the snow in front of my cabin.

12 feet in circumference, this tree survived the forest fire of 1885, living to the age of approximately 500 years which is about half of the life expectancy for this species. Many years ago this tree had suffered a lightning strike leaving it with a rotten top composed of several giant limbs. The rest of the upper branches were healthy and grew to be very thick but deformed by the stunted crown. The trunk showed significant conks from a laminated form of fungi, which probably saved if from logging that took most of the other trees in the area. Now only a trunk of about 40 feet is left standing.

My parents and I moved to this property in April 1975 and I have always admired the largest tree for its thick wrinkly bark, shape, and strength. At that time this tree towered over the forest, a giant compared to all other trees in both height and girth. This tree seeded many of the surrounding trees which have grown to be taller than their parent. I have made many discoveries from this tree and have been inspired to investigate the history of forests by its presence.

I have seen many birds spend time on this magnificent wildlife tree including: Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-Breasted Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Winter Wren, Mountain Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Cooper’s Hawk, American Robin, Spotted Towhee, Varied Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, American Kestrel, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Stellar’s Jay, Pine Siskin, European Starling, Crow, Raven, Bald Eagle, and even a Great Blue Heron landed in it to make some outrageously loud squawking. I watched a female Rufous Hummingbird gather cobwebs woven across the deep cracks in the bark, to use in constructing a nest. One night I listened to a pair of Barred Owls call each other from distant trees, slowly moving closer to each other. They met in the Old Douglas Fir tree in front of my cabin where they began to make noises that I had never heard them make before or since. That was the first year that those owls nested nearby and brought 3 fledgling into this world.

I witnessed the death of a friend tonight, a friend that stood before Europeans came to conquer this continent. I will miss this beautiful tree but it will be decaying for hundreds of years providing life for a multitude of insects, plants, and other trees. Birds will continue to benefit from this fallen giant and the colossal snag that still remains, standing firm. Its carcass will hold moisture during the dry season, providing habitat for amphibians and germinating seeds. We will leave the broken piece to rot where is lies and watch the standing truck decay naturally over time. The cycle continues, the succession of the forest.

In his letter to the Editor “Protection is ongoing” (The News Jan. 14) WLAP Minister BIll Barisoff compares this natural process of the forest to the ravages of clear-cut logging left by industrial corporate giants. A stump field is being offered as a park while a primeval Douglas Fir forest with trees that are hundreds of years old, evolved over millenniums will be logged by Weyerhaeuser in the Cameron Valley. I would like to see Cathedral Grove Park expanded to include all old growth trees in the Cameron Valley but somehow the BC Liberals put politics and greed ahead of the protection of the environment.

Friday, January 07, 2005


The Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 was awarded to Wangari Maathai of Kenya for leading a powerful crusade against deforestation. As an environmentalist and women’s rights activist she led the “Green Belt Movement”, which mobilized women to plant 30 million trees in a country where 98 percent of the forests have been logged or burned. The Nobel committee said. “Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment.”

Dr. Maathai was jailed, beaten, and persecuted for working to stop deforestation in Kenya. She spoke out against the destruction of the natural environment and challenged both the status quo and the government for not protecting the forests that provided life for millions of people. She motivated tens of thousands of woman to change farming practices and managed to persevere against many obstacles. She is now the Deputy Environment Minister of Kenya.

In British Columbia government, big business, developers, and special interest groups are constantly working together to discredit environmentalists. Millions of tax payer dollars and private corporation profits are spent each year to convince the public that we can continue to destroy the environment with little or no consequences.

As a documentary film-maker I have been in enough ministers’ offices, executive boardrooms, and community halls to know a smoke-screen when I see one. The BC Liberals are about to announce just such a red-herring in the hope that the public will re-elect them in May. Logging in Cathedral Grove will continue as usual but the ‘PR spin’ will lead you, the tax payers, to believe that forest land is to be protected while paying off Weyerhaeuser with cash and/or a land swap.

What is actually happening is that the public will be buying approximately 140 hectares of land in the Cameron Valley from Weyerhaeuser. The majority of this land has already been logged and is currently a monoculture tree farm with Douglas fir trees that resemble christmas trees.

Weyerhaeuser could not log the tiny trees in this area for a long time so why pay taxes on land that is not turning over a profit today when they can trade it for land that they can log right away? Meanwhile the only land outside of the present day park that has a substantial stand of old growth trees is excluded from this latest secret deal.

Vice President of Weyerhaeuser Canada Craig Neeser said; "Make no doubt about it we are going to log Cathedral Grove!” This may seem hard to believe, but then again most people think that H.R. MacMillan ‘gave’ Cathedral Grove to the people of BC.

The reality is that in 1952 MacMillan swapped 136 hectares of forest in the Cameron Valley for logging rights in Strathcona Park. The oldest provincial park in British Columbia has been cut up, divided, logged, mined, dammed, and swapped by provincial governments since it was ‘protected’ in 1911 by a special Act of the Provincial Legislature.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that the BC government must insure that industry does not degrade land that is claimed by First Nations in ongoing treaty negotiations. The Supreme court of British Columbia turned down the BC Liberal’s application for an injunction to remove the public from the proposed parking lot site in the Cameron Valley.

In 1885 the public began to lobby the government for a park to protect “Cathedral Grove” from the peak of Mt. Arrowsmith to Mt. Horne including the Cameron Valley and Cameron Lake. Today concerned citizen have been camped in Cathedral Grove for 10 months with this same demand. Don't let public opinon be side stepped by WLAP Minister E-mail: When will BC get a Minister for the Environment who respects the earth for what it is: the provider of all life?