Introducing the British Columbia Big Tree Project map

Raincoast’s Big Tree Project map will help connect BC-based community scientists with the big tree monitoring project nearest them. Project contributors hope that these projects will help secure stronger protections for big and mature trees across the province.

The Pender Islands Big Tree Registry (PIBTR or “the registry”), established and managed by Raincoast Conservation Foundation, is one of many big tree projects underway in British Columbia’s forests. It, like other localized registries including the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust Big Tree Registry and the Cortes Community Forest Big Tree Registry, is complementary to the province-wide Big Tree Registry managed and hosted by the University of British Columbia. 

After a collaborative meeting in 2021, the big tree community in BC expressed an interest in working together to expand the reach and influence of all the individual projects underway across the province. It was at that time that Raincoast became acquainted with Patrick Hayes, a professional programmer and the creator of the BC Forest Map (“the map”). 

The map was catalyzed by the movement to protect ancient forests at Fairy Creek and the launch of the provincial old growth strategic review process. According to Hayes, the release of the two person panel’s report, A new future for old forests, was the province’s own demonstration that old growth forests were in trouble. At the time of the map’s creation there was no comprehensive overview of what was happening in BC’s forests from a mapping perspective. All the data were publically available from provincial, federal, and community-science platforms, but had not been assembled and presented in a way that would allow the average person to interpret the wider scale impact of logging activities. 

The purpose of the BC Forest Map

  1. present where logging is currently happening or intended to happen, 
  2. highlight the locations of protected areas and 
  3. identify the location of old growth forests. 

The map is updated every few months. Though, as mentioned above, it was created around the time when the protests at Fairy Creek began, Hayes has not purposefully tracked the amount of logging that has occurred since its inception. Instead, he says his part to play is in making the information available to others who are interested in mobilizing that knowledge into action.

The Big Tree Project map

The BC Forest Map forms the base layer for both the BC Big Tree Registry map hosted by UBC and the Big Tree Project map now displayed on Raincoast’s website. 

Though Raincoast has hesitated to map the locations of the big trees measured via the PIBTR, Hayes is convinced that maps are an educational tool that help people understand and spend more time in the forest; and the more time spent in forests, the more protection they will receive. Though some attest that increased visitation could potentially put big trees at risk, most highly trafficked forests are fairly close to where people live, and enjoy some layer of protection. Many forests that are further away from human settlements are not protected and are more likely to be logged than to be damaged by individuals driving hours to visit them. 

February 25, 2023 marks Premiere David Eby’s 100th day in office and the deadline for the NDP government to fulfill their pledge to accelerate provincial commitments to protect  old growth forests in BC. Despite the provision of a 36-month timeline for taking action on old growth protection with immediate, near, mid, and long-term goals identified in A new future for old forests, insufficient progress has been made since the release of that report nearly three years ago.

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Research scientist, Adam Warner conducting genetics research in our genetics lab.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.