Lonesome Doug



There is an amazing tree at the west end of Vancouver Island called Lonesome Doug. We did not find Lonesome Doug, a lonely Douglas-fir left all alone  in the middle of a vicious clear-cut forest. We had seen photos of Lonesome Doug but felt we did not have time to try to find him. So he remains alone and unseen by us.

All the trees around it had been felled. Hence the name. Lonesome Doug is a massive tree. It pokes right through the forest canopy in this area called the Tall Tree Capital of the World. It actually had no limbs at all until it reached the top of the surrounding canopy. In other words all the surrounding trees were not as tall as the lowest branch of Lonesome Doug! This is a very big tree. Thank goodness it was saved, but I wish they had retained some of his neighbours too.

Lonesome Doug is about as tall as a 20-story building. Its trunk is wider than a truck. Apparently it is the second-largest Douglas-Fir tree in Canada. And now it is a freak in this clearing in the rain forest. Lonesome Doug has enough wood to fill four logging trucks or to frame five 2,000 sq. foot houses. That one tree could be sold for thousands of dollars, but thankfully it was saved. I don’t know why. It is one of the last Douglas-fir in coastal B.C. where 99% of them are already gone. And some people want to take them all! Sometimes the rapacity of men is inconceivable. It takes a rain forest like this to grow such a massive tree. Here it rains 2 out of every 3 days so the big trees are happy. Such trees love flat valley floors onto which the rain water flows. Even though we did not see Doug, we were very lucky because it did not rain.

For many decades the predominant method of logging in B.C. was clear-cutting. The loggers just cut everything down. There was no time for sloppy sentimentality. According to Harley Rustad,

“The introduction of mechanized feller-bunchers—capable of chopping, de-limbing, and cutting trees to length—made it possible for loggers to clear a hectare of second-growth forest in a matter of hours. But few machines are capable of felling old growth; the trees are too big. Every great tree that is cut down on Vancouver Island is done by hand. While it could take 500 years for a fir to reach fifty metres tall and two metres wide, it can take a skilled faller with a chainsaw five minutes to bring it down.”

That puts the whole process into perspective. Lonesome Doug has probably been standing for a 1,000 years! In other words he was already about 500 years old when Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America. He was a seedling at about the time Leif Ericson was building sod houses in Newfoundland.

The image of Lonesome Doug is a powerful one. I think it shows us what clear-cut logging is all about. As Rustad said, “Heroic life persevering amid destruction.” Destruction is the key. Sometimes I really think capitalism is anti-life. They call it creative destruction, and sometimes that is true, but all too often it is just destruction. I think it is really vandalism. Maybe even desecration.

The Globe and Mail called this tree “the loneliest tree in Canada.” Some people fear that because the surrounding forest has been felled, the wind will ruin Lonesome Doug. Yet he was surrounded by 150 year-old Hemlocks that had grown back after a massive storm. In other words, Doug must have been alone then too. He can take the wind. Doug is tough. Maybe he will make it. Lets hope.


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