Largest Douglas fir in the world at risk say environmentalists

At almost 74 metres tall, the largest Douglas fir in the world towers over the surrounding forest in the Red Creek area east of Port Renfrew.

But new logging tape marks an area about 50 metres away from the giant tree, and environmentalists fear the tourist attraction will shortly be surrounded by a clearcut, making it susceptible to blowdown.

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"The San Juan Valley is like a giant wind tunnel and this increases its exposure," said Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance, an Island-based environmental group.

"This is the biggest Douglas fir on earth and it should be a first-class tourist attraction, but people will be walking through a clearcut to get to it. It is totally myopic."

In Port Renfrew, tourists often ask how to find the Red Creek fir, said Chamber of Commerce president John Cash.

Chamber members, who want to see big trees preserved as tourist draws, recently put up directional signs to the fir so tourists would not get lost on logging roads.

The Ancient Forest Alliance has erected its own sign beside the 1,000-year-old tree, giving its dimensions. The sign replaces one erected by the province decades ago, which was rusted, lying on the ground and surrounded by broken glass.

Wu said it appears the area comes under B.C. Timber Sales designation, meaning the province plans out cutblocks for small businesses.

But Forests Ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas said BCTS has no immediate plans to harvest in the Red Creek fir area.

"In fact they helped improve the road access so people could go view the tree," she said.

"Also, the tree itself is part of a public recreation site, so the immediate area is protected from logging."

The Ancient Forest Alliance is supporting a proposal by Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin to extend Pacific Rim National Park down the west coast of Vancouver Island, with an expanded park to include the Red Creek fir.

jlavoie@tc.canwest.com

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