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Old Growth Conservancy on Hollyburn Ridge (Photos)

West Vancouver Old Growth Conservancy Society
OGC Website

"The Old Growth Conservancy Society (OGCS) is a registered society working in partnership with the District of West Vancouver, British Columbia in the management and stewardship of West Vancouver’s Old Growth Conservancy.

The Old Growth Conservancy is a 54 hectare (133.6 acre) forested area at 760 metres (2500 feet) elevation, south of the Cypress Provincial Park boundary and west of the Cypress Bowl Road.  It contains a mosaic of different aged forest stands, including significant old growth with some western red cedars up to 900 years old.  Threatened by golf course development in 1990, the Conservancy is now protected by municipal bylaw.  While there is no formal access to the Conservancy at present, several West Vancouver parks contain old-growth stands that are accessible by trails.

The Conservancy and a few other remnant stands in parks and other District land are all that remain of the ancient forests that once covered West Vancouver’s mountainside.  These forests were part of the renowned temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, considered “the finest coniferous forests in the world.”

During the summer of 2017, the Old Growth Conservancy Society (OGC) conducted a number of guided tours in the the Old Grow Conservancy on Hollyburn Ridge. Participants gained a new understanding and appreciation of the beauty and ecological importance of a ‘old growth’ forest."

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The following article, written by Pollough Pogue in 1929, gives what many today would call a gut-wrenching description of the felling of an old growth giant.

The Big Fella
Pollough Pogue, January 9, 1929

“I bin in the woods since I could wear me dad’s pants if I stagged ‘nough off them, ‘n’ I never seen a fella as big as her taken down, except in stove loggin.”

This was what the foreman said, and he was referring to a Douglas fir seven feet in diameter just above the root swelling. The Fallers, The foreman told me were going to “take her down” that morning. “Stay with the bull-bucker,” he said, as we left the dining-room after breakfast, “ ‘n’ yuh’ll see her come down.”

Following a narrow and scarcely perceptible trail made by man walking in single file through the somber stillness of an almost pure stand of Douglas fir, the bull- bucker and I presently heard the sharp rapping of axes, and came to the swollen base of an enormous brown rough-fluted pillar which extended, free of limbs, for a hundred feet upward, and then was lost in a mass of almost black boughs which matted with the branches of other giant Douglas firs that stood near. Two fallers standing on springboards just above the immense root swelling, were chipping the bark off the tree preparatory to chopping their undercut. The bark was nearly a foot thick. At last, I told myself my hopes, so frequently dashed, of seeing really big tree falled were about to be realized. This fir was a few inches over seven feet in diameter eight feet, and Jim Davis, the bull-bucker, estimated its height to be 250 feet.

The fallers, Ole and Axel, now began the undercut, their thin axe blades flashing in the brown gloom as they get fiercely into the tree’s flesh.

* * *

The great fir leaned a little in the direction in which it was to be felled. This, the bull-bucker told me, necessitated an undercut deeper than usual. But in a very short time these experienced axemen finished the big notch. Davis and I sat on a log watching the long chisel-like axe-blades cleanly incising the sloping face of the undercut. The steady clapping of the axe-blows beat through the forest silence in smooth cadence. Had I ever, Jim Davis asked, seen a kerf made with the sloping face below the horizontal cut instead of above? Saved a lot of timber to make an undercut that way out of big tree. I had never seen one made that way.

The springboards were rammed into new stepping-notches. Ole and Axel started their saw-cut on the opposite side of the tree from the undercut, and a little above it. The shrill high song of the saw rang through the primeval stillness like screaming music. The fallers pulled with a strong quick swing, timed to an exact rhythm like a machine. They stopped only to douse coal oil on the saw-blade from a quart bottle, and to start and drive steel wedges behind the saw. Ole handled the sledge, and I could see his back muscles squirm beneath his woolen undershirt as he swung the heavy hammer. In this solemn dusky temple of the red gods the two Swedes were vandals who felt no awe; they would tear down the ancient fane without a regret.

* * *

The bull-bucker was another Hun. He looked forward eagerly to the fall of the great tree. The fact that she leaned in the felling direction was highly satisfactory; it greatly facilitated the work of taking her down. He spoke of the giant tree as one would speak of an enemy.

“The whistlin’ old Siwash ’ll come down ‘a easy ‘s fryin’ pancakes in hell,” he told me. “Nothin’ to her.”

“Is she sound?” I asked.

“Can’t tell, but likely not. These big old fellas are like old men, kinda punky.”

The saw stopped. Young Axel turned a thumbscrew and unshipped his handle. The blade was drawn out of the cut by Ole. Both men jumped down from their springboards.

“Yee-yee-ay-yee-yaa-yaa-yee-ay” they shouted, backing away from the tree giant.

A sharp crackling and snapping, an alarming sound, came from the tree. Looking up I saw the giant’s thick black crown slowly tear itself free from the matted thatch of the forest, the lofty roof of the myriad- pillared temple. The rugged head of the big tree rocked, tilting the tall column. The loggers yelled in triumph, but a pang of grief pierced through me. To destroy such a magnificent monument of Nature seemed an act of supreme commercial vandalism. The huge shaft toppled, seemed to hesitate, and was splintering and splitting noises like pistol shots, rushed downward, dashing against the earth was a violent shock that made the mountain tremble.

Photo Group 1 - August 2017

Photo Group 2 - August 2017