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Old-growth tree spotted rolling down B.C. highway was nearly saved by new harvesting rules

The province has identified the origin of the spruce and when it was cut down

A massive old-growth tree rolling down a B.C. highway has captured the attention of thousands of people around the world after a Nanaimo woman snapped a photo on her way to the grocery store. 

Lorna Beecroft was driving down the Nanaimo Parkway Tuesday morning when she came across a logging truck weighed down with a single enormous spruce tree.

“It was just shocking to look up and see a huge old-growth tree like that driving down the road,” she said from her Nanaimo home.

She posted the photo to her Facebook page, sparking a massive response. As of Thursday morning, over 19,000 people had shared the photo. Beecroft said she has received messages from all over the world, from Japan, Denmark, Germany and all across Canada and the U.S.

The photo caught the attention of politicians as well.

Taylor Bachrach, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, re-tweeted the photo calling it “Barbaric.” Former Burnaby NDP MP Svend Robinson answered, “Barbaric indeed.”

“Mostly, it’s people who are unhappy, sad, upset that trees like that are harvested. Others, who are making fun of me for being a tree hugger. I’m not,” said Beecroft. “People have to make a living. We live in houses, they’re made of wood. But surely we don’t have to cut down trees like this.”

Beecroft attributed her viral post to a growing frustration around old-growth logging practices in the province, a frustration that has been boiling over at the Fairy Creek logging blockade less than 70 kilometres from her home. (Teal-Jones Group, the logging company that has the harvesting rights in the Fairy Creek Watershed area, confirmed to Glacier Media they're not involved in this incident.)

“To actually see one of these trees on a truck down the road, it’s just an eyeopener, a wake-up call for us all,” Beecroft said.

WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

After becoming aware of the photo Thursday, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said it was looking into the tree's history. 

Hours later, a spokesperson for the ministry confirmed the tree was cut down on the north end of Vancouver Island between March 2020 and mid-August. 

By August, Western Forest Products transported the tree to a log sort in Coquitlam. That was only a month before the Special Tree Protection Regulation came into effect on Sept. 11, 2020. 

Designed to protect roughly 1,500 exceptionally large trees of all species throughout the province, the ministry spokesperson said “today, a tree of this size might well be illegal to harvest under the regulation, and fines of up to $100,000 could be imposed if it was.”

From Coquitlam, the tree was sold and transported — ostensibly down the Nanaimo Parkway — to Port Alberni for processing.

“Due to the date of harvest there is no contravention of the Special Tree Protection Regulation,” added the ministry spokesperson.

In a written statement Friday, Western Forests Products said it's in touch with the ministry to understand the facts surrounding the harvest of the tree and how it relates to the government's Special Tree Protection Regulation.

“We remain deeply committed to protecting big trees,” read the statement.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Western Forest Products and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.