Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Big Lonely Doug, an ancient Douglas Fir stands alone in a clearcut area near Port Renfrew, B.C., on March 12, 2021.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

The largest tree in Canada is known as the Cheewhat cedar. More than 55 metres in height and six metres in diameter, it is estimated to be about 2,000 years old. Premier John Horgan and his son, Nate, made the pilgrimage to visit the giant Western red cedar in 2016, and he says the trek through an ancient forest on Vancouver Island’s west coast impressed him with the importance of preserving old growth from logging.

“It is truly a monster,” Mr. Horgan said in an interview. He and his son made the trip accompanied by Al Wickheim, the son of a renowned big-tree hunter, Maywell Wickheim, who had ensured the Cheewhat cedar would be protected in the boundaries of Pacific Rim National Park. The group did not take the easiest route, which involves a shortcut accessed by a logging road. “We did it the interesting way, by taking our canoe and backpacking it through the bush on the opposite side of the lake, paddling across, climbing up the hill,” Mr. Horgan recalled. “Then it took us two hours to find the tree.”

Mr. Horgan said he’s grateful that surrounding forest is protected from logging. “To go and visit these places, and to recognize and be humbled by that majesty, is something that I and [Nate] will never forget.”

Story continues below advertisement

The year after that trip, Mr. Horgan became Premier. Now his government is struggling to find a way to move forward with the reforms Mr. Horgan has been talking up for years. He has promised a fundamental change, but again, he did not choose the most direct path.

Deadlines to implement oversight for logging in the Great Bear Rainforest on the central coast of the province have been missed, and last week, the province missed another set of targets for provincewide old-growth reforms. Conservationists are unhappy, and protesters are camped out at a blockade in the Premier’s riding, seeking to protect another ancient forest from logging.

Mr. Horgan acknowledges the pressure but said his government can’t bring about the sweeping changes he has promised without extensive consultations. The province has deferred old-forest harvesting in nine areas throughout the province while it engages with Indigenous leaders and organizations. That engagement has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Premier said, and until that is done, the next stages of consultation can’t begin.

“I believe we’re on track and that if we’re going to make systemic change, that has to be thoughtful, it has to include everyone, or it won’t stick,” he said. “We need to do it in a way that will not disrupt our relationships with the first peoples whose territory these trees are on.”

Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council, which represents six of the First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest, said he is “really frustrated” with the lack of progress. “Everybody’s avoiding having the tougher discussions,” he said. He finds himself defending the government because it has, properly, engaged with First Nations. But his community doesn’t welcome the logging of old growth in the meantime. “We have some economic interest in seeing logging continue, but not old growth.”

The type of forest that Mr. Horgan visited, the awe-inspiring landscapes of giants that are featured on B.C.’s destination marketing posters, are rare. There are an estimated 415,000 hectares of these types of especially productive, old-growth forests left in B.C. and conservationists warn that while the government consults, these highly valuable big trees continue to be logged.

Susan Yurkovich, president and chief executive of the Council of Forest Industries, said her industry is still waiting for its turn at the table to discuss the changes. While the province is engaging with Indigenous communities, there are forestry-dependent communities, unions and industry voices that are still waiting their turn for input.

Story continues below advertisement

“They want to have a discussion about how are we going to balance the values on the remaining areas of forest land, how are we going to balance the values between protection and conservation,” she said. “What do we want it to look like in five and 10 years time? Then we can have a provincewide kind of strategy for implementing this.”

She said the industry has already been adapting to changing priorities, with a shift over the past decade to seeking more value out of less timber. “We create everything from doors and window frames and decking and panels and shingles – all kinds of value-added products, and we’ve got the opportunity to do more of that.” That model, Ms. Yurkovich said, has to include some old growth because of its high value.

Change is coming but it is moving so slowly, it’s difficult to measure.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies