When Lorna Beecroft posted a photograph of a giant cedar tree being trucked on a Vancouver Island highway Monday, she thought she was just showing a few Facebook friends something that stunned her.
Instead, her post has been shared more than 15,000 times and drawn responses from around the world. While some reacted with disbelief, even accusing her of fraud, for many it became a symbol of the ongoing battle over old-growth logging in British Columbia.
But according to the provincial government, and the driver who hauled the log, the cedar’s story is more complicated.
“I have never honestly in my life seen a tree that big on a truck ever,” Beecroft said on the phone from her home in Nanaimo.
The pictures are very much real, she said. She took them Monday on the Nanaimo Parkway on the south side of the city when both she and the truck, which had a Dumas Trucking Ltd. logo on the door, were headed north.
“We hear all about they’re wanting to log old growth, and you think, ‘That really sucks, it’s not a great idea,’ but when you actually see a tree like that on a truck, it’s beyond imagination,” she said. “You can’t ignore it. It’s so in your face.”
After posting the pictures, Beecroft heard from people throughout Canada and the United States, and from as far away as Denmark, Germany and Japan.
“It seems to be resonating, that’s for sure,” she said.
Taylor Bachrach, the NDP member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley retweeted the photo with the one-word comment: “Barbaric.”
And Svend Robinson, a former NDP MP responded “Barbaric indeed... Respect for those engaging in civil disobedience to stop this madness.” He wrote that he was “ashamed” of the BC NDP government.
A spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said the government didn’t know anything about where the photo came from, but ministry staff would investigate.
“It’s illegal to cut down exceptionally large trees,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We introduced the Big Tree Regulation in June 2019 that includes penalties up to $100,000 for a contravention of harvesting exceptionally large trees.”
Judging from the photo, however, the tree does not appear to have been freshly cut, they said. “The tree appears to be salvaged from deadfall or cut quite some time ago.”
A Dumas Trucking Ltd. employee, Richard, who did not give a last name, confirmed the tree was not freshly cut.
“Yeah, we picked it up from a log sort,” he said. “We didn’t go into the bush to pick it up or anything.... It was an old log that’s been sitting. I don’t know how long it’s been on the ground.”
Asked for details of where he picked up the log and where it was going, he said, “I don’t want to say I’m wasting my time, but I literally spent hours not compensated on the phone last night, and I just got home from work and I’m not going to spend hours on the phone again answering questions. Sorry.”
He hung up.
Someone who answered the phone at Dumas’s office in Port Alberni said, “We are just a trucking company. We pick up and drop off and have nothing to do with this thing you are trying to report on.”
An industry source said many of the cedar mills on Vancouver Island have closed in recent years, but there’s at least one in Port Alberni that could handle it.
A log that size would likely be milled into solid wood pieces, or dimensional lumber, rather than turned into shakes or shingles, they said, noting that it would be worth about $700 per cubic metre at current prices.
Beecroft, who previously was an owner of a log sort in the interior of the province, agreed the log didn’t look really fresh but said it appeared to be in good condition with no noticeable rot.
“I didn’t think it looked that aged, not to be three years since it was cut at least,” she said. “I’m not an expert by any means.”
Part of why her post resonated is the ongoing fight over old growth in the Fairy Creek area near Port Renfrew, Beecroft said. Also, she added, people care about B.C.’s old-growth forests.
“It’s a national treasure, and people are really realizing I think what a treasure these are,” Beecroft said. “I have the greatest respect for the people who are putting it out there on the blockades to protect the remaining trees we have.”
As of Tuesday, RCMP had arrested at least 110 people while enforcing an injunction against blocking logging and road building in TFL 46 where Teal-Jones Group is the licence holder.
READ THE FOLLOWUP: Our reporter dug deeper and discovered more about the giant tree and its fate. That story is here.