Cathedral Grove
British Columbia

The Protest

Why Europeans

An International

Big Trees:
Pictures & Politics

Big Trees &
Totem Poles

Totem Pole

European Tree

Related Stories

Digital Media


Contact & Credits



Related Stories

  WaldAktion BC   Kahlschlag in Kanada  
  Bear Mountain Treesit   Save the Klaskish Giant and East Creek  
    Haida Nation v. BC & Weyerhaeuser  
  Stop Killing Big Trees   We Need a Paper Revolution!  
  MacMillan Park Stumpfield   Spirit Bears and Rainwolves in Germany  
  European Tree of the Year   Parking in the Cathedral  
  Viva Touristika Rostock   Colleen McCrory (1950 - 2007)  
  Koksilah River Big Trees   Muir Creek Big Trees  

Sooke Potholes Forest Destroyed

A precious remnant of an old growth Douglas fir forest is located along the Sooke River (left), some thirty minutes from Victoria. In 2005 the geological landmark known as the Sooke Potholes was included in a new regional park, thus saving at the last minute the popular public bathing site from commerical exploitatation. The Sooke Potholes are part of the traditional territories and sacred heritage of the T'Sou'ke indigenous people for whom they are named. Unbelievably, the rare and endangered ancient Douglas fir forest surrounding the potholes was not included in the park and has since been logged by TimberWest. Healthy Douglas fir trees equal in age to the 800 year old veterans of Cathedral Grove were cut down in a covert operation tied to real estate speculation by the sleazy logging company.


Sacred Sooke Potholes.
T'Sou'ke First Nation Territory


TimberWest logging the Sooke Potholes Forest.
Photos: Ingmar Lee (Click to enlarge)

Sooke River just before the potholes.
Vancouver Island, BC

This wanton destruction wiped out the final tract of ancient fir forest in the Sooke River Valley, leaving a stumpfield and future development site. Ingmar Lee explains that he took the top photos in the collage about five years ago, when the ancient fir forest at the Sooke Potholes was still wild and pristine (left). The bottom photos were taken in May 2005, after TimberWest had begun its clearcut logging operation. They show that about half of the grand old Douglas firs are gone: "I was heart broken that this beautiful and exceedingly rare forest habitat was destroyed so secretly and so quickly to within ten metres of the most famous stretch of the potholes."

Old growth logs, 2006.
Sooke River

"Oftentimes on a summers morning, I head out to the Sooke Potholes, where I strip off all my clothes and swim naked into a most wondrous whelm of wilderness. Immersed in the crystal clear waters of the Sooke River, and looking up through the lofty boughs of the hoary old fir trees which cloak the valley, the sublimity of nature deeply permeates ones being. Drifting under the ancient trees one slowly sinks out of this world, and on through the realm of hamadryads and satyrs, and beyond. All of the physical conditions for the human being's most ultimate quest are to be found here. No cathedral, no masjid, no mandir, vihara or synagogue can offer such immersion into that primaeval place from whence we have all evolved" Tragedy and Travesty (Ingmar Lee).

  Stop Killing Big Trees

The annihilation of rare and endangered big trees adjacent to Cathedral Grove in year 2000 by the American logging company Weyerhaeuser (successor of MacMillan Bloedel) was an ecological crime. To the premier of British Columbia (BC): "We turn to you with a Christmas appeal (right), which is that the BC government make the industrial logging of big trees illegal. These trees are symbolic of the magnificent nature of BC, just as the eagles, grizzlies, whales and salmon are. They belong to an ancient ecosystem with a rich biodiversity and it is our duty to preserve such trees and their forest habitats for future generations. Moreover, big trees are an integral part of the cultural heritage of the First Nations and they were sustainably managed long before the colonization of the Pacific Northwest. . . "


Christmas Appeal (Click to enlarge)
Stop Killing Big Trees


  MacMillan Park Stumpfield

Scores of visitors from all over the world come to see Cathedral Grove, a rare surviving stand of big trees on Vancouver Island. Not long ago this tiny 157 hectare park was part of a magnificent and ancient rainforest ecosystem containing many thousand year old trees. Most of this ecosystem was plundered by H. R. MacMillan, the first provincial appointed forester in BC and one of its most powerful timber barons. In 1944, with great reluctance, this notorious "Emperor of Wood" donated Cathedral Grove to BC and it became "MacMillan Park." On 5 January 2005 forest activists found a survey crew in the woods and took a photo of their base map (right). Not until months later was the secretly negotiated deal to expand the beleaguered park with a stump field announced with great hoopla.


"MacMillan Park Addition," 5 January 2005.
Photo: Richard Boyce


Old growth logging next to Cathedral Grove, 2001.
Photo: Richard Boyce

The Friends of Cathedral Grove (FROG) rejected the miserly stump field donation by the logging company and called for the some 400 hectares of standing ancient forest in the Cameron Valley directly adjacent to Cathedral Grove to be expropriated from Weyerhaeuser. FROG proposes that this land be returned to the First Nations whose historic stewardship and usage is everywhere evident: "Backroom land deals between government and Weyerhaeuser will continue to leave First Nations and the general public without a voice" 5 January 2005: FROG Press Release.

"Here's Weyerhaeuser once again trying to flog off a logged out stump field to the people of BC for millions of dollars. The land is now useless to Weyerhaeuser and is nothing but a tax burden to them." FROG warned the BC government that the MacMillan Stump Field Addition did not mitigate the negative impacts of its misguided plan to construct a large parking lot on the floodplain of Cameron River, upwind of the already stressed big trees in Cathedral Grove.


The "MacMillan Park Addition" was a cutblock withdrawn from Weyerhaeuser's private timber tenure which surrounds Cathedral Grove (left). The 140 acre "donation" was added to the 21 hectare stump field which the BC government bought from Weyerhaeuser in 1999 for $1.7 million. Notably both backroom deals excluded the commercially valuable old growth forest remnants that provide a vital buffer for Cathedral Grove.

New addition to MacMillan Park, 2005.
Map: Nature Trust

  European Tree of the Year: Horse Chestnut

To celebrate the heritage trees of Germany, a Kuratorium selects one particular species each year: Baum des Jahre. In 2005: Die Rosskastanie. In 2006: Schwarz Pappel. In 2007: Wald Kiefer. In 2008: Die Walnuss. On the Chesnut (right): "This is one of the most beautiful, best liked and best known trees in the cities and avenues of Europe. The shade given by the crown of the Horse Chestnut is very dense, making it an ideal tree for beer gardens. Many substances contained in the bark, leaves, flowers and fruits of the Horse Chestnut can be used in nature healing. Hardly any other tree species has so much to offer in this respect." It seems ironic indeed that in European countries big trees are celebrated as icons of heritage while in BC they are being wiped out by clearcut logging for the global commercial wood products market.


Horse Chestnut, Tree of the Year
Baum des Jahres, Kuratorium

  Viva Touristika Rostock

As the "No. 2" foreign destination for German tourists, Canada was the focus of a special section of the 2005 Rostock Tourism Exposition, called "Viva Touristika." About 13,000 visitors were introduced to Canada's official tourism advertising campaign: "Canada: Discover Our True Nature." But the exposition organizers also wanted to give an alternative and non-commercial view of Canada, so they invited two German environmental groups to participate: ArbeitsKreis noerdliche Urwaelder (AKU), or the Network for the Preservation of Northern Primaeval Forests, and its partner organization Urgewald. The environmentalists presented a "behind the scenes" view of nature destruction in British Columbia (BC) in a poster gallery of pictures and text supplemented by lectures and interviews (right).


Interview with Lydia Bartz of urgewald
Photo: Karen Wonders


German environmental activists, Rostock, 2005.
Photo: Karen Wonders


AKU activists (from left: Imke Oncken, Lydia Bartz, Christian Offer, Stephan Roehl, Jutta Beher) informed people that the wild nature scenery promoted by the tourism industry in BC hides the grim reality of the international wood products industry. See: AKU Stand. For a report in German, see: AKU auf Touristikmesse. Press commentary on thepointed to the need for a "sanften Tourismus," a new form of sustainable tourism based on indigenous cooperation.

One of the posters condemned the killing of grizzly bears for trophies and sport by German tourist hunters. Although the European Union banned the import of such trophies in 2006, Germans remain second only to American big game hunters as the most enthusiastic killers of Canadian grizzlies.


"Kahlschlag für Deutschland" German Poster Display by AKU (Click images to enlarge)
On the Destruction of Forests and Indigenous Culture in British Columbia, Canada

Poster 1

Poster 2

Poster 3

Poster 4

Poster 5

Poster 6

Poster 7

Poster 8

Poster 9

Poster 10

  Koksilah River Big Trees

A surviving old growth remnant with big trees, located near the headwaters of the Koksilah River, is endangered. The small grove of ancient Douglas firs (right) is part of the Shawnigan Division tree farm licence owned by MacMillan Bloedel until 1999 when it was sold to Weyerhaeuser. In 2004 it was sold again, this time to TimberWest. During the past few decades, the forest here has been extensively clearcut logged. Unique trees that were felled included the largest and tallest Douglas firs in the recorded history of BC. The renowned Koksilah Fir was 1340 years old when she fell in 1986, blown down after the removal of the surrounding protective forest. It is shocking that the small ancient Douglas fir grove that remains continues to be at risk by the failure to enact old growth forest protection legislation.


Big tree at risk by TimberWest, 2006
Photo: Warrick Whitehead


Indigenous canoes on Koksilah River," c. 1900.
Photo: BC Archives

Rare and magnificent ancient big trees in the Koksilah River Forest are marked for logging by TimberWest. The forest heritage of this area belongs to the Cowichan Tribes. The river is is named for the Koksilah people who came from the village of "xwélkw'sáleon" (above). They also had a seasonal fishing village called "xtémten" on the upper Koksilah River, at Marble Falls. Until the late 19th century when European settlers invaded and alienated the land, the Cowichan Valley had a numerous indigenous population.


Koksilah River from Burnt Bridge.
Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island


Ancient Douglas fir grove, Koksilah River Forest.
Photo: Warrick Whitehead

The Douglas firs in the Koksilah grove of big trees represent an ecosystem that has been virtually exterminated by logging. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee has launched an education initiative: Koksilah River Old Growth which is part of a larger campaign aimed at shaking up the BC government: Protect Vancouver Island's Ancient Forests. Despite the precious biodiversity of the Koksilah River Forest, TimberWest plans to save only four acres of the biggest trees and to cut down the protective fringe forest. This logging company's strategy to "cut all around it and watch it blow down" has already proved disasterous at Cathedral Grove. Wilderness Committee director Ken Wu reminds the timber company: "Creating a little postage stamp in the middle of a clearcut doesn't save the living ecosystem" Fight to Save Fir. The endangered forest is furthermore of great value to the local community as a tourist attraction Grove of Ancient Trees. A highly publicized fight to save the Koksilah big trees in 1989 forced the forest industry to stop logging in the area but old growth timber prices are high and have put the trees in danger again. Many are marked for logging (right). See: Koksilah Blog.


The Koksilah River Forest was included in the 1883 land grab by the Scottish coal baron - settler, Robert Dunsmuir, that robbed First Nations of about one quarter of their lands on Vancouver Island. As a result, vast forests ended up under the control of railway and logging companies which claim that these regions are "private land," subject to no environmental laws. TimberWest has already logged off most of the lucrative old growth on Vancouver Island and is now selling its forest holdings to real estate developers.

TimberWest marked tree, Koksilah.
Photo: Warrick Whitehead


Kinsol Bridge, Koksilah River, 2007.
Vancouver Island, BC


Kinsol Bridge, Koksilah River, 2007.
Vancouver Island, BC


"Across the Abyss." Painting by Paul Grignon.
Save the Kinsol Trestle

The trestle was abandoned in the 1980s and the structure has slowly deteriorated. The government is threatening to dismantle the trestle, but a protection campaign has been launched: Save the Kinsol Trestle. The painting above is based on a photo of Niagara Trestle (right), further south on the railway track, close to Goldstream Park and Victoria. Like most old wooden railway trestles in BC, it has long been destroyed. These massive industrial relics are a reminder of how bountiful the ancient BC forests must have been.


The Kinsol Trestle is an important part of the Koksilah River Forest Heritage (above left and right). Completed in 1920, this 187 meter curved railway trestle over the Koksilah River is one of the world's highest. Its primary function was to facilitate the logging industry's deforestation of Cowichan Valley, once home to some of the largest trees on the North American continent. Constucted from massive cedar beams, the railway trestle is the dead reminder of what used to be a living primaeval forest.

Niagara Trestle, Goldstream Park, c. 1900.
Photo: BC Archives

  Kahlschlag in Kanada

On 2 December 2004 in Goettingen, Germany, a lecture was held by Philipp Kuechler about the impact of the global wood products industry on Canadian forests (right). He especially focussed on the clearcutting of the temperate rainforests of British Columbia (BC). The lecture was held in conjunction with the opening of a travelling exhibit on paper consumption; "Papierwende." Introducing the lecture was Stefan Wenzel, the leader of the German Green Party for Lower Saxony. The Faculty of Forest Sciences at Goettingen University is one of the world's first and is well known for its research on silviculture. One forestry professor who attended the lecture expressed his shock at the sort of outdated clearcutting practices that continue to dominate the forest industry in BC and wreck environmental havoc.


Philipp Kuechler, Goettingen, 2004
Photo: Karen Wonders


Colleen McCrory and Stefan Wenzel, Hanover, 2004.
Photo: Karen Wonders

On 4 April 2003 the German environmental activist groups Urgewald, RobinWood and AKU held a symbolic clearcutting, "Kahlschlag in Kanada fuer deutsches Papier" (right) at the Bonn headquarters of the German Pulp and Paper Assoc. to protest against its importing of high grade magazine pulp from endangered ancient cedars in BC and to show support for protecting the Great Bear Rainforest. The activists also accused the German paper industry of being accomplice to the robbing of Indian land: Symbolischer Kahlschlag.


In May 2004 Stefan Wenzel invited his Canadian colleague, Colleen McCrory, then deputy leader of the Green Party of BC, to Hanover to attend a session of Parliament (left). See: WaldAktion BC (Naturschatz). The German Green party leader wrote a letter on 16 August 2004 to express his concern over deforestation in BC to the Speaker of the BC Legislative Assembly: Wenzel to Richmond. No reply was received, not surprising given the economic collusion between the government of BC and the global wood products industry.

German Pulp and Paper protest, Bonn, 2003.
Photo: Stephan Roehl

    Beginning in 1993, when German groups held a protest in solidarity with the forest activists arrested at Clayoquot, the clearcutting of the ancient Northwest Coast forests has led to a worldwide rallying call for action to stop this senseless destruction. Also in 1997 a protest was held at the Canadian Embassy in Bonn during which about 30 environmentalists joined Nuxalk indigenous activists to protest against Canada's continued human rights violations. They called for the cessation of industrial exploitation of natural resources on unceded Indian land. Nuxalk House of Smayusta Chief Qwatsinas took part as well as Colleen McCrory of Valhalla Wilderness Society. See the information brochure (left): Kanada.

  Save the Klaskish Giant and East Creek

The Klaskish Giant (right) is a record sized ancient cedar tree located in Quatsino First Nation Territory on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia (BC). The magnificent tree grows in the remote East Creek Watershed which drains into the Klaskish Inlet. Until the late 1990s both the East Creek and Klaskish watersheds were pristine roadless wildernesses, classified as Crown (publicly owned) forestland. In the late 1990s International Forest Products (Interfor) began blasting a logging road into the Klaskish and within five years it had gutted the valley. Weyerhaeuser was next to assault East Creek, blasting a logging road into the pristine valley in 2003. Clearcut logging devastation continues today by Western Forest Products, spelling doomsday for ancient trees like the Klaskish Giant (right).


Klaskish Giant, East Creek, 2003.
Photo: Ingmar Lee


Location of the Klaskish Giant.
Quatsino First Nation Territory

The "Place of Origin" for the Quatsino people is Xwatis (Hwates) in Quatsino Sound. Xwatis was known for its monumental houses and totem poles. Quatsino artist George Nelson carved a housepost (right) from an ancient red cedar tree for the "Sea Lion House" in 1906. Several years later Edward Curtis photographed the ancestral figure with a whale on its chest and coppers on its arms for his epic on North American Indians: A Koskimo House Post.

Quatsino By 1955, this single housepost was all that remained of the Sea Lion House at Xwatis. Today it is displayed in the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology. Not much remains of Quatsino culture and traditional village sites, in large part due to the forced amalgamation of the tribes to make way for settlers and in 1972 the forced relocation of the inhabitants of Xwatis.


The Klaskish Giant survives only because of her remote and roadless location on Klaskish Inlet, seen on the map inset (left). Klaskish Inlet was originally inhabited by the Klaskino people, one of five Kwakwaka'wakw tribes (Giopino, Hoyalas, Klaskino, Koskimo and Quatsino) which are today represented by the Quatsino First Nation.

Housepost, Xwatis, 1955.
Photo: BC Archives (W. Duff)



East Creek - Klaskish Inlet, Vancouver Island, 2003.
Photo: Sierra Club BC

The destruction of the Quatsino forests on Klaskish Inlet is continuing as a new logging road is being blasted into the pristine lower East Creek. See two eyewitness accounts and photo galleries: by Western Canada Wilderness Committee director Joe Foy: East Creek - 2003 (right); and a follow up report by Richard Boyce: East Creek - 2008 (far right).


The beautiful and extremely rare intact forests of East Creek at Klaskish Inlet were photographed from the air in 2003 (left). Ominously, in 2003 the Lemare Lake Logging company was contracted by the forest products corporations to construct a logging road into the valley, destroying 1000 year old yellow cedars in the process (below).

Crimes Against Ancient Forests

Click photos above for Galleries


Ingmar Lee, Klaskish Inlet, 2004.
Photo: Krista Roessingh

Filmmaker and climber Richard Boyce often works in the canopies of big trees. In 2008 he travelled to Klaskish Inlet where he witnessed a shocking display of old growth destruction (right). He notes: "The East Creek Rainforest is home to all five species of spawning salmon (chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, and pinks), Roosevelt elk, many nesting marbled murrelet sea birds, black bears, cougars, wolves, deer, giant red cedar and sitka spruce bottom lands, and a spectacular estuary" Island Bound Media Works.


Beyond the Cutting Edge While kayaking in Klaskino Inlet in 2004, forest activist Ingmar Lee filmed the endangered wilderness landscape for a documentary video (left). For a description in German, see Naturschatz: Bedrohte Urwaelder. "It is truly heartbreaking," says Lee, "to see these enormous log trucks loaded with ancient yellow cedar from the highlands of the East Creek Valley" Momentous Primeval Moments.

Richard Boyce, East Creek, 2008.
Photo: Ryan Murphy



Increment boring, East Creek - Klaskish Inlet, 2004.
Photo: Krista Roessingh

By determining the spatial and chronological extent of past forest use by precise measurements, the ancient Klaskish forest was shown to have been sustainably harvested for bark, planks and resin. Seven areas were surveyed using judgemental sampling techniques, and culturally modified trees (CMTs) were found in all areas. A total of 55 probable and definite CMTs were recorded, and many others were observed but not recorded. Modifications were recorded on Western hemlock, Western red cedar, yellow cedar, and Sitka spruce trees. CMT types include taper strip, rectangular bark strip, and plank strip scarred trees, plank strip scarred logs, flattop and barber chair stumps, and resin holed trees.

Hoping to save remarkable and irreplaceable trees such as the Klaskish Giant (right), the researchers sampled the CMTs and applied dendroarchaeological techniques to estimate the age of modifications. The earliest estimated date of modification was 1739, and one third of the samples apparently dated from the years between 1820 and 1860.


To bring attention to the endangered trees of East Creek and the urgent need to protect the irreplaceable aboriginal heritage of Klaskish Inlet, a dendroarchaeological survey was conducted in 2004 by University of Victoria students Krista Roessingh and Ingmar Lee with the permission of Quatsino Chief Tom Nelson. Increment boring was used to date scar tissue from the trees (left).

Klaskish Giant, 2004.
Photo: Ingmar Lee


Ancient forest destruction in the Klakish and East Creek Watersheds at Klaskish Inlet, Vancouver Island, BC, 2003.
Photo: Joe Foy, Western Canada Wilderness Committee