Striding over moss and crackling branches, Larry Pynn and Bruce Coates hiked deep into a North Cowichan forest Sunday to show us their find.
“I get shivers, you know I love it, I really do,” said Bruce Coates, president of the Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society.
“It feels so good to find these last few,” said Larry Pynn, a Cowichan resident and publisher of SixMountains.ca.
The naturalists discovered a hidden treasure of trees growing way off the beaten path last week.
“Jubilation and high fives and to think we could find something like this, it was really remarkable, and we think there may be more in the area,” said Pynn.
The area the giants are growing in along the Chemainus River is part of the North Cowichan Municipal Forest Reserve, which has temporarily halted logging due to a public consultation to determine the future of its over 5000 hectares of forest.
That consultation ends later this month, so the naturalists hope this discovery will lead more people to want to protect this unique forest from harvesting.
“Less than 1 per cent of old growth that fall within the coastal Douglas Fir remain, so to come across these, it’s kind of like Sumatran tigers or Bengal Tigers living in our midst to find them,” said Pynn, a veteran environmental journalist.
Even more remarkable is the old growths are not far from where tree poaching has been a recurring problem in the forest reserve.
So far, five trees estimated to be over 250 years old and measuring up to six metres in circumference have been found in close proximity, and, after reviewing pictures and the trees’ measurements, North Cowichan Municipal Forester Shaun Mason stated in a letter: “The sizes you indicated would put them amongst the largest diameters that I have encountered and/or heard about.”
The naturalists now wonder what other surprises remain in this North Cowichan forest.
“It’s one thing to measure the circumference at six metres but to stand here and to see and appreciate it and to think of how long it’s been here,” said Pynn.
“I believe along the river here where logging was difficult or impractical that we’ll find others well,” added Coates.