Nearly two decades into his hunt for B.C.’s biggest trees, it takes a lot to blow away Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and National Geographic explorer TJ Watt.
A tree on Flores Island has done just that. Five metres (17 feet) wide at its base, even wider as it goes up, reaching more than 150 feet tall, the western red cedar is likely more than 1,000 years old.
“When I first saw it I thought, initially, it was a rock wall,” said Watt.
It’s a sprawling fortress of tree limbs which Watt has dubbed, “Canada’s most impressive tree.”
“It’s just the most mind-blowing thing I’ve seen in nature,” said Watt.
Though currently unprotected, Ahousaht First Nation plans to protect this tree and 80 per cent of other trees in their territory.
“I believe firmly that we do need to protect from ourselves, from extraction and exploitation,” said Tyson Atleo with Ahousaht First Nation. “We need to put a pause on harvesting. We need to put a pause on exploitation so we can re-calibrate that relation. I know we can and Ahousaht is leading that way right now.”
Ahousaht’s approach for a successful conservation-based economy is one that Atleo believes other First Nations could model after.
The next step as Watt sees it, is the province working to ensure it’s an easy process to get there
“[B.C. Premier] David Eby needs to step in to make sure ministries are doing everything in their power to reduce barriers to old growth conservation, stop heel-dragging on conservation financing, provide funding to support old growth deferrals and ensure the oldest and best trees in B.C. Are being protected,” said Watt.
Protected, so generations to come can stand under or see, something that’s been here for more than a millennium. The biggest, Watt is sure, is still yet to come.
“Where that tree might be, who knows, so the hunt continues,” said Watt.