Cathedral Grove
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The Protest

  Big Trees Destroyed   The Treesit  
  The Parking Lot   FROG "Ribbits"  
  Friends of Cathedral Grove (FROG)   Cathedral Canyon  

Cathedral Canyon

On 3 May 2006 a group of forest activists and members of the Friends of Cathedral Grove (FROG) took part in an exploratory expedition up the Cameron River into the secluded and near inaccessible Cathedral Canyon (right). They made the shocking discovery that many of the big trees in the primaeval and steep elevation forest are being clandestinely "highgraded" for their commercial value and helicopter logged. This "eco-crime" is being perpetrated by Island Timberlands, a logging company owned by Brookfield (formerly Brascan, Weyerhaeuser, MacMillan Bloedel). Cathedral Canyon is the centrepiece of a protection plan to expand Cathedral Grove to a total of 2000 hectares, the only hope of stopping the rapacious industrial destruction of the last big trees in this endangered ecosystem.


Cathedral Canyon, 3 May 2006
Photo: Phil Carson


Cathedral Canyon Exploring Expedition, 3 May 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson

FROG has proposed that a "No Logging Buffer Zone" be established all along the Cameron River (right) to protect the ecological integrity of Cathedral Grove. It is unacceptable that hidden from public view — just up the river from the the most popular park in BC — unscrupulous logging companies are destroying the endangered ecosystem.


Phil Carson (FROG) organized an exploring expedition to Cathedral Canyon on 3 May 2006 with Geoff Senichenko (Research and Mapping Director, Western Canada Wilderness Committee) and Scott Tanner (former Qualicum Beach Councillor). They were surprized by the size of some of the ancient trees that they discovered, including rare old growth Douglas firs (left).

Fallen tree over Cameron River.
Photo: Phil Carson


Ancient yew tree, Cathedral Canyon, 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson

"Overall, of big trees growing on the easily accessible valley bottoms and flood plains like the astonishing little grove hidden away in the Cameron River canyon and in the basin of Labour Day Lake where the Cameron rises, 90 per cent is now thought to be gone. The stand we'd been looking at, like Cathedral Grove, represents only a tattered fragment of the immense Douglas fir forest that once covered the dry east coast of Vancouver Island." Stephen Hume supports the longstanding movement to expand Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park) by protecting the Cameron River watershed including its Labour Day Lake headwaters (right).


Journalist Stephen Hume revisited Cathedral Canyon in July 2009 and again supported the call for an immediate moratorium on logging in the most endangered old growth forest types on Vancouver Island as proposed by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee: "Let's just take a breather before it's all gone, for Pete's sake. And let's all remember that there's never a justification for taking 100 per cent of anything — and that principle applies to our private as well as our public stewardship" Vancouver Sun (18 July 2006): Cameron River Old Growth Worth Preserving.

Labour Day Lake, 2007.
Photo: Scott Tanner


Heli Logging Hell (left). Click to view gallery. The commercial "Snap–and–Fly" carnage of big trees by helicopter logging has become common in BC as the ancient coastal temperate rainforests vanish and unscrupulous and unregulated logging companies become more ruthless in their maniacal pursuit of profit. Heli logging takes place on steep, unruly and unroaded terrain in remote areas as well as on the periphery of public parks. Even the intact Cathedral Canyon, which is an integral part of the world famous big tree stand is being heli logged. This purposeful corporate extermination of the surviving big trees exposes the shameless greed of the forest industry.


Cathedral Canyon, 2006. (Click to enlarge)
Western Canada Wilderness Committee

Access to Cathedral Canyon is difficult; visitors must first locate an unmarked logging road off the main highway to Port Alberni, then climb down a steep cliffside (right). Among those to take part in the challenging trek to see the ancient trees threatened by helicopter logging was the environmental journalist Stephen Hume who indignantly reported: "Each one of these trees, its life measured in close to a millennium, perhaps more, might make an hour's work for some logger's chainsaw. Nope. It ain't right. This shoot the last elephant, harpoon the last whale, cut the last big tree insanity has got to stop. This bit of ancient forest doesn't need to be turned into more toilet paper and two - by - fours. Somebody get on the phone to our premier. Tell him we want it saved" Vancouver Sun (3 December 2007): Ancient Giants. . . Face the Faller's Saw.


Cathedral Canyon is a jewel hidden at the base of Mt. Arrowsmith. It reaches a depth of 250 meters and runs for about six kilometers along Cameron River (left). A rare remnant of old Douglas fir forest survives here only because logging companies have not been able to easily access the timber. In 2006, however Island Timberlands began using helicopters to "highgrade" the big trees for their commercial value as wood products. In 2006 the Wilderness Committee launched a campaign to protect the greater Cathedral Grove area including the endangered ancient forest on the steep elevation slopes: Cathedral Grove Canyon.

Climbing into Cathedral Canyon.
Photo: Phil Carson


TV crew, Cathedral Canyon, 6 November 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson

Standing heroically on one rocky promontory is a single old growth snag, the sort used by eagles as a perch with a panoramic outlook over the canyon far below (right). The spectacular scenery and towering rock faces were described by journalist Fred Davis who accompanied the tour. FROG member Phil Carson pointed out some of the huge Douglas firs whose thick bark had protected them for centuries from the fires that have swept through the canyon. But now they are ominously marked with blue tape, indicating they may soon be victims of the greedy logging corporations. "This area is a gem by anyone’s scale," Carson reminded the tour members: "It would be the crown jewel of a national park." In addition to the roots of the trees which stablize the soil from sliding downhill, Carson drew attention to the moss "which can hold 1,000 times it own weight in moisture." He warned that the logging companies were "treating the land like it's their own personal fiefdom and it's nobody’s business. It's everybody’s business" Parksville Qualicum Beach News (7 Nov. 2006): The Forest Outside the Park.


In early November 2006 environmentalists seeking to bring public attention to the unethical helicopter logging by Island Timberlands in the buffer areas to Cathedral Grove met a local TV crew and politician Scott Fraser, a member of the BC parliament, to give them a tour of the steep slope forest of Cathedral Canyon (left).

Snag tree, Cathedral Canyon, 2007.
Photo: Phil Carson


Scott Fraser and Gary Murdock, Cathedral Canyon 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) inhabit Cathedral Canyon and when one regal specimen was pointed out to Scott Fraser by nature guide Gary Murdock (above), he was able to capture a picture of the magnificent bird with its outspread wings taking off from a snag tree (right).


Eagle, Cathedral Canyon, 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson


Stop the Choppers!
Heli logging, Vancouver Island

Phoney Manliness and Big Tree Felling Videos of macho loggers killing ancient trees in BC are common. Right: still shot from a 2008 Youtube video of a heli logging operation with over 48,000 viewers: West Coast Heli Logging. Such brutal and senseless destruction is condoned in a province where the government engages in slick public relations campaigns and green rhetoric. Meanwhile the insatiable logging industry continues its carnage unabated, daring to attack even the Cathedral Grove Watershed, home of the world renowned big trees. Frequent takeovers and rebranding clear the logging companies of bad press and provide a smoke screen that obstructs public scrutiny.


The plundering of Cathedral Canyon by clandestine "Snap-and-Fly" chopper logging is an outrageous act of eco vandalism. Heli logging targets the largest and most profitable trees. These grandiose specimens are vanishing as BC's primaeval forests are converted to plantations. Driven by the profit return on old growth timber, logging companies are reduced to going after the "guts and feathers" of logged-over forests.

Timber cruisers from logging companies identify the big trees on the ground and mark them with tape and spray paint. A faller is then flown into the forest area in a support helicopter. He climbs the tree, delimbs it, cuts off its top and attaches a choker cable to the stem. The faller then repells to the ground and chainsaws the mutilated tree until only a small core of heart wood holds it erect. Next a hovering heavy lift helicopter called a Skycrane arrives, grabs the choker cable on the bare tree pillar with a claw and snaps it off. The helicopter from Hell then transports the massive log to a collection terminal where it is dumped for yarding and further transport by truck (left).

"West Coast Heli Logging," 2008.
Youtube screenshot


Cathedral Canyon, October 2005.
Photo: Phil Carson

FROG members documented the helicopter logging of Cathedral Canyon in October 2006, a mile upstream from the boundary with the big tree stand. Next to Cameron River a freshly cut cedar stump, still red in colour, is seen in front of a tree girdled with pink tape (left). Such irresponsible riparian zone logging reduces biodiversity through soil erosion, tree blowdown, sediment and debris build up, river blockages, and so on.

More Mayhem in the Cathedral This is the last remnant of the inland Douglas fir bioclimatic zone and its plant and animal communities are endangered . . . The BC Ministry of Parks tells us they know nothing of logging plans and any signs of activity are just "posturing." Some posturing! Many of the big trees are already gone and lots more marked with tape and numbered. The reality is that this is a full blown assault by Brascan on Cathedral Grove. The situation is an emergency. Brascan operates with funds from the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. Private investors in the plan and others must be informed of how Brascan is using their funds to destroy valuable biodiversity.

The logging plans for Cathedral Canyon will have been originally drawn up by MacMillan Bloedel – Weyerhaeuser. Soon after Weyerhaeuser was sold to Brascan in 2005 it changed its name to Brookfield and formed spin off logging companies to carry out the unethical wrecking of the last old growth forest remnants on Vancouver Island.


Stumps, Cathedral Canyon, 3 May 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson


Cathedral Canyon Gem Then I saw the first freshly cut stump. . . I lost count of the rings at six hundred and forty because the growth was so slight towards the outer edge that I could not distinguish between the years. I later counted thirty stumps and twenty more old growth trees marked for logging by Island Timberlands on the east side of this steep canyon. The next day I hiked and climbed down the west face of the Cathedral Canyon, where the 'hump' falls off into the deep ravine. Steep cliffs are topped by a series of clearcuts and tree farms ranging in age from 50 years to this winter when Island Timberlands cut down the last of the big trees.


Cathedral Canyon, Vancouver Island, 9 May 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson

Cathedral Grove forest defenders are recording the vandalism in Cathedral Canyon (left). Brookfield Asset Management is a mega corporation with some $40 billion in assets. Who is taking responsibility for corporate forest crimes on both public and private owned forestlands? Cathedral Canyon lies at the base of Mt. Arrowsmith and is in the UNESCO Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve. According to the reserve charter, full community consultation is required yet there is none. Phil Carson expresses his frustration and anger: "Who are these Forest Corporation Executives who strut around like they own our mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, wildlife, fish, drinking water, who lock the logging road gates and pretend they live in a world beyond human ethics and environmental sanity?"


An ancient yew tree found in Cathedral Canyon measures eight feet in circumference (left), one of the biggest on Vancouver Island – yet it is in danger of destruction by Island Timberlands, one of the logging companies formed in 2005 after the sale of Weyerhaeuser to Brascan – Brookfield.

BC forest crimes activists, Cathedral Grove.
Photo: Phil Carson


Cathedral Canyon Gem Both sides of Cameron River are lined with some of the finest specimens of western red cedar that I have seen in my entire life. They are about two metres in diameter, straight with no spiral, clear with few limbs until the top which reach heights of 60 to 80 meters. Most of the big trees, some growing directly out of the river's bank, are ribboned and spray painted for helicopter logging.

FROG member and filmmaker Richard Boyce took a reconaissance flight over Cathedral Canyon on 6 May 2006 to record the location of the site (right). Later he continued his investigation on the ground, where he discovered that the canyon's oldest tree inhabitants had been targeted.


Cathedral Canyon as seen from the air, 6 May 2006.
Photo: Richard Boyce


Thanksgiving Meditations There was ample evidence where chainsaws had ripped and spewed while the roar of helicopters had silenced the chorus of tree frogs and song birds. Apparently some people's souls are so deadened by the pursuit of money that nothing is Sacred. Even the Cathedral's Spires are being desecrated. Obscene florescent pink tape marking of imminent death by chainsaw is everywhere, encircling ancient Cedar, Fir, Spruce and Hemlock. These doomed trees are right on the flood plain right on the banks of the Cameron River. Any disturbance will negatively impact the hydrology, including everything downstream: fish habitat, the provincially designated community drinking watershed, and the Class A Provincial Park Cathedral Grove.


Ancient fir stump, Cathedral Canyon, 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson


Scott Tanner with marked tree, 3 May 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson

Scott Tanner was shocked by his discovery of the ancient "Grandmother" trees that were marked for helicopter logging on the steep slopes of Cathedral Canyon (right). Over many centuries these Douglas fir veterans have survived devastating fires thanks to their thick bark. The senseless ruination of the last precious pockets of primaeval forest habitat is a criminal act. Increasingly communities are calling for environmental justice and speaking out against the reprehensible forest industry corporations.


Scott Tanner (left), former councillor for Qualicum Beach, and other community members are fighting to protect 1,300 hectares of Cathedral Grove, including Cathedral Canyon. Such critical environmental protection will provide longterm security for public drinking water as well as preserve endangered wildlife habitat.

Cathedral Canyon, 3 May 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson


Bark stripped cedar, 3 May 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson

FROG and many other community activists have called for an immediate moratorium on the cutting of old growth forests and for new legislation to enure their longterm protection. High alpine areas where forests hold the snow pack and community watersheds are especially at risk.


In Cathedral Canyon culturally bark stripped cedar trees (left) are found as well as a rich variety of rare ancient forest lichen (below). These biological treasures are worthy of being included in a new expanded Cathedral Grove protection plan that adequately protects the entire watershed.

Lichen, Cathedral Canyon, 3 May 2006.
Photo: Phil Carson


"Dollar Trees," Cathedral Canyon, 2007.
Photo: Scott Tanner

Cathedral Canyon Gem The forest showed signs of a forest fire approximately 200 years ago which had opened the forest canopy to allow the growth of many tall, slender western red cedar and western hemlock trees. Moss and lichens covered almost every surface in this dense forest. Colours blended into one another, yellow green over the rocks, gray and green hanging from the trees, with spatters of red or orange created by lichens in bloom. Despite the rugged location this dense forest is so lush that any open spaces are covered with ferns, Salal, and Salmon berry.

Already the hydrology of Cameron River (right) has suffered huge disturbances due to decades of unregulated clearcut logging in the Cathedral Grove Watershed, leaving the giant trees in the park evermore vunerable to blowdown as a result of the hurricane force Pacific storms.


Annette Tanner stands besides two endangered big trees in Cathedral Canyon (left), on the floodplain of Cameron River just above Cathedral Grove. Marked with pink tape and numbered as "Dollar Trees," these victims of greed will be heli logged by Island Timberlands (aka Brookfield, Brascan, Weyerhaeuser, MacMillan Bloedel).

Cameron Lake, Cathedral Grove, 2007.
Photo: anon


Cameron Lake, Cathedral Grove, 2007.
Photo: anon


Cameron Lake (left) was named in 1860 after the first judge of the new colony of Vancouver Island. The lake and Cameron River belong to the watershed that nurtures the world famous giant trees of Cathedral Grove. The watershed was part of a land grab by H. R. Macmillan to secure the lucrative Cameron Logging Division which for most of the 20th century provided huge amounts of old growth timber to the pulp, paper and lumber mills of Port Alberni. The survival of the small stand of big trees at the mouth of Cameron River was the result of a hard fought battle by conservationists. These trees are a nature treasure that provide up to a million people annually with a sense of wonder at the magnificence of the primaeval rainforest. Little do they know that just outside the borders of the tiny park the logging industry continues to slaughter rare surviving big trees.


About 400 hectares of land that remains to be protected of the Cathedral Grove watershed lies in private forestlands to the west of the park – including Cathedral Canyon. Another 900 hectares are on public (Crown) lands to the east of the park on the north side of Cameron Lake, a non pristine forest that has been logged over once or twice. This is the location of the abandoned E&N Railway, built in 1910 to serve the logging industry of Port Alberni. The tracks (below) and a three-tier trestle (right) were built in old growth lumber and exist today as relics of a by-gone era when BC's vast primaeval forests were believed to be inexhaustible.

Cameron Lake railtracks, 2007.
Photo: Poecile


Cameron Lake, rail trestle, 2007.
Photo: Poecile


Ancient forest wetlands at the mouth of Cameron River, Cathedral Grove, 2008.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada