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Environment Maine| Environment Maine

Meet Big Lonely Doug | Environment Maine

Cover Photo: timfilbert via Flickr. CC BY -NC-SA 2.0

One giant, piercing the sky, stands where once stood a family towering, mighty trees. As centuries-old behemoths plow the ground, you can imagine the chorus of chainsaws. Then comes the earthquake of the Earth. This lone survivor, surrounded by destruction, stands tallhis green leaves a beacon for life amid a barren landscape. Meet Big Lonely Doug.

Photo by timfilbert via Flickr; Creative Commons By-NC-SA 2.0

You can find him on Vancouver Island, just across from Canada. He is a douglas-fir tree on a single swathe of land. Once a lush forest full of life, it has been reduced to a barren expanse. This forest was not a treasure trove for history and life for the timber industry. It wasn’t home to crawling critters, nor wandering wolves. It wasn’t an interconnected, delicate, ancient ecosystem. It was more like a large, old ATM called cutblock number 7190.

This lens showed Big Lonely Dougs forest as a pot of gold at rainbow’s end, thanks to the many behemoths that live there: Sitka spruces and western red cedars to name a few. This is not to mention Douglas first, the crowning glory this timber jackpot. Douglas fir wood is dimensionally stable and does not twist or warp after drying. Its distinctive grain and warm coloring make it an attractive choice. The most desired timberBritish Columbia Producing more timberMore than any other species in North America.

Big Lonely Doug in particular offered a nice sum. He stands at nearly 20 meters tall, is four meters wide, and measures 12 meters in circumference. Dougis is worth about $60,000This tree has enough wood to fill four log trucks. So why is this one giant standing?

Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Although the forest was destroyed by logging companies, Big Lonely Doug was saved by a logger. Dennis Cronon was given the task of surveying one of Vancouver Islands’ last remaining old-growth forests. This forest is where some of Canada’s largest trees are located. His goal was to flag it for clearing-cutting. Cronon was walking about the ancient trees when he realized his purpose and condemned one of Vancouver’s remaining old-growth stands for logging. Cronon considered it a day of work until he met Doug. Cronon was so captivated by this spectacle, he decided to wrap a green ribbon around one root and add two simple words: Leave Tree.

Cronon created a symbol that will be used for environmentalists and conservationists for many generations. Cronon made this bold move because of the tree’s sheer size. However, I believe Cronon saw beyond dollar signs and recognized its uniqueness. Big Lonely Doug, with nearly 1,000 years of life under his bark is an ecosystem in its own right. The delicate moss and lichen that grow on his highest branches have been sustaining life for centuries. Big Doug’s height was a key factor in the forest’s nutrient cycle, even though he was one of thousands of trees. This tree gathers sunlight from high above the foliage-rich canopy and can transfer essential nutrients to smaller saplings through mycorrhizal fungal fungi. These fungi form the underground network connecting various species via their roots across all of the forest.

Doug is more than an ecosystem service provider. He is also an ecosystem creator. Doug, just like all mature and old growth trees, has vast amounts of carbon. Doug’s corky bark is a mile thick and can store a thousand years worth carbon. The tree would be cut down and most of the carbon would be released back into the atmosphere. This would also mean that it would lose a valuable carbon sink. Too many of our oldest trees are living with this reality.

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The constant logging has caused destruction to both old trees and younger trees (like Doug) These older trees are our. old-growth forestsOne of the best tools we have against climate change is our ability to communicate with others. The soil and trees in old-growth forests help to sequester tons worth of carbon and provide habitat for a wide range of species. These forests have been able over hundreds of years to create unique, complex, and delicate ecosystems by remaining unaffected. It has been reported that 18,000 invertebratesYou can find them under one pair of boot prints in these ancient woods.

Photo: Viv Lynch via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Truth is that no matter how valuable a tree’s timber may be, they are worth more if left standing. Big Lonely Doug can make thousands of dollars if he is hacked down. But he is worth more when thriving and healthy.

The same applies to many of our trees, particularly mature ones that have the greatest potential for future generations old-growth forests. With 95% of the old-growth forests gone within the Western U.S., and more than 99% eliminated in the EastIt is crucial that mature trees are preserved now.

Big Lonely Doug, a humble logger saved the day. He sends a clear message: Let trees grow. The results of allowing trees and forests to flourish are good for all. We urge the Biden Administration, to stop the logging of old-growth and mature trees. These trees are our future.

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