The story behind the viral photo of a massive old-growth tree on a B.C. highway

Click to play video: 'B.C. resident talks about seeing the huge old-growth tree going down the highway'
B.C. resident talks about seeing the huge old-growth tree going down the highway
Vancouver Island resident Lorna Beecroft talks to Global News about what went through her mind when she saw a huge old-growth tree on the back of a truck, being driven down the highway. – May 27, 2021

Vancouver Island resident Lorna Beecroft had no idea that when she snapped a photo while on a grocery run Tuesday morning that her picture would be seen around the world.

Beecroft was travelling on the Nanaimo Parkway around 9 a.m. when she saw a massive tree on the back of a truck.

Click to play video: 'Viral photo of big log gets international attention'
Viral photo of big log gets international attention

“I was just astonished, just astonished. I’ve never seen anything that big on a truck. And I’m not young, I’ve seen a lot of trucks,” she told Global News.

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“The first thing that came to my mind, first of all, is that I couldn’t be seeing what I could possibly be seeing. And then when my brain caught up with my eyes, my first thought then was, ‘How old is this tree and how did it end up on this truck?'”

Lorna Beecroft took this photo on Tuesday morning on the Nanaimo Parkway on Vancouver Island. Lorna Beecroft

When she posted the photo online, she had no idea the impact and reach it would have.

“I thought I was just going to share that photo with a few friends,” she said. “In no time at all, it had completely blown up. It went completely viral.”

Beecroft said she had people contacting her from all over the world, including Japan, Germany and the United States.

It was shared by the David Suzuki Foundation, BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau and thousands of social media accounts.

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Click to play video: 'Company wins injunction to go ahead with logging in Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island'
Company wins injunction to go ahead with logging in Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island

Many advocates are using it as a symbol of why B.C. needs to do a better job of protecting old-growth forests from logging, saying this tree likely came from the forest not far from Beecroft’s home.

More than 100 arrests have been made so far at blockades aimed at preventing old-growth logging in this area of Vancouver Island.

Enforcement of a court injunction began last week allowing workers with the Teal-Jones Group to resume logging in that area and in the Fairy Creek watershed to the south, near Port Renfrew.

Activists in the area have told media that very little of the best old-growth forest remains in B.C. and that Fairy Creek is the last unprotected, intact old-growth valley on southern Vancouver Island.

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But it turns out, this tree is not from the region.

The Ministry of Forests told Global News it is a Spruce from the north part of the island and had been cut down sometime between March 2020 and mid-August 2020.

The ministry said it was initially transported last August – a month before the Special Tree Protection Regulation came into effect on Sept. 11, 2020.

“Government brought in this regulation to protect exceptionally large trees of all species throughout the province, and today, a tree of this size might well be illegal to harvest under the regulation, and fines of up to $100,000 could be imposed if it was,” the ministry said.

After the tree was harvested, it was sent to a log sort in Coquitlam to be stored in water until it was sold, which the ministry said is a common practice.

When Beecroft saw the tree, it had already been sold and was being transported to Port Alberni for processing.

“Due to the date of harvest, there is no contravention of the Special Tree Protection Regulation,” the ministry said.

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Click to play video: 'Loggers turn tables on anti-logging protestors'
Loggers turn tables on anti-logging protestors

Beecroft said she has always felt that protecting old-growth forests is an important issue and that they should not be logged.

“They may never grow again and we may not have the conditions to replace those trees. It may be too hot, too dry, no soil.”

She said she is not anti-logging by any means, but said companies should be logging more sustainably and targeting trees that are smaller and readily replaced.

“If we can help to protect these trees, this is really important and we really need to do it. And those guys who are out on the front lines, putting those bodies and lives on the lines for those trees, they’re heroes, they’re very important people,” she said, referring to the activists at the Fairy Creek watershed.

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“They’re the ones who should be applauded.”

Editors note: The Ministry of Forests previously told Global News the tree was transported by Western Forest Products. However, Western Forest Products have clarified they were not the company that transported the tree. Global News has reached out to the Ministry of Forests for clarification. 

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