I recently read John Vaillant's "The Golden Spruce", a true account of a misguided environmentalist named Grant Hadwin who, undercover of night, felled the most culturally significant tree in British Columbia. This giant sitka spruce was special because its foliage glowed an unnatural gold unlike any other tree in the world. It was revered by the Haida nation as a living legend.
Hadwin had long objected to the mass deforestation on the west coast and killed the tree to try to prove a point that the loss of old growth coastal forests from logging cannot be justified by reserving small tracts of forest and individual specimen trees. You’d be hard pressed to find a West Coast resident that agreed with Hadwin’s actions; they were callous and cruel but he did accomplish his goal to raise awareness of the problems of coastal logging.
I was struck the similarities of the golden spruce calamity to the loss of our beloved white pine on the banks of Boulevard Lake last year. You may recall that am intoxicated fool with a chainsaw killed the tree that had been standing for well over a century. There was an outpouring of grief and anger over the incident as well as a clear appreciation for the tree before it was felled.
Unfortunately the motives behind the white pine’s destruction weren't those of an environmental activist. Had they been, perhaps as a community we too would have taken greater notice of the loss of our once majestic old growth forests. Wouldn’t it have been preferred to divert the all the media attention away from the crime itself to the fact that there are only a few handfuls of white pine of the same vintage that remain in our city?
Before Europeans arrived and began logging our area, the forests from thunder bay to Kenora were dominated by old growth red and white pine forests. Now all that remains are scattered individual trees and a few pockets of true old growth like at Greenwood Lake.
We have for so long been a community of loggers who have lost sight of the true value of our region’s forests. We have failed to cultivate our forests to become vast reserves of high quality spruce and pine instead we’ve let them degrade into messy tracts that we simply call “bush”.
To me, when we lose a veteran tree like the Boulevard Lake white pine, we’re losing our natural heritage. We as a northern community need to work harder to grow our forests to provide high quality building materials, products beyond raw pulp and two by four building studs. We as landowners need to get out into our forest and plant species like white pines where they can grow, protect them and give them room to grow into mature specimens.