Big tree registries offer an opportunity for community engagement and conservation this summer

The Pender Island Big Tree Registry welcomes community members to submit big tree nominations and join in on summer events.

Big trees are integral to ecosystems and communities of western North America. They support a network of connections – plant, animal, and mycelial – that, if lost, can only be replaced by time. Big trees instill awe and connection in the human communities that surround them. As a focal point of ecosystem health and diversity, they remind and inspire us to rethink our relationship to the land and priorities in its use. 

A legacy of logging and urbanization has led to the destruction of old growth forests in British Columbia. Policy continues to fail to protect old growth forests, while grassroots movements and community projects push to save some of the remaining trees. Many of the big trees left in BC exist in fragments, lone survivors in swaths of plantations and urban centers. 

Pockets of these trees can be found on the Gulf Islands, a unique part of the greatly threatened Coastal Douglas-Fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic zone. Without awareness and engagement these fragments go unnoticed, continuing to be susceptible to expanding human impacts.

Pender Islands Big Tree Registry

Big tree registries offer an opportunity to identify and protect remaining old growth, and individual old trees. They are community-science driven, encouraging engagement and connection with community members. The Pender Islands Big Tree Registry (PIBTR) was established by Raincoast Conservation Foundation in September 2019 to raise awareness of endangered CDF forest ecosystems on the Gulf Islands. Data collected through this initiative are important as documentation of the biodiversity of Pender Islands and useful to various potential projects. 

The PIBTR is modeled with permission after the BC Big Tree Registry (BCBTR) initiated by the University of British Columbia (UBC). The PIBTR and BCBTR are mapped alongside other big tree registries in BC on the our website. These initiatives came together in December 2021 to collaborate at the Big Tree Summit to identify common goals and future directions. Collaboration is essential to increase connectedness and reach of these projects across BC, and we continue to strengthen these connections. 

How to get involved

The PIBTR welcomes opportunities for growth and collaboration this summer. Community science projects require ongoing momentum, with leadership encouraging participation. Raincoast welcomes Aria Willis to the team as a summer intern, with focus on supporting and reinvigorating engagement with the registry.

Both ongoing supporters and new big tree hunters are encouraged to submit nominations of big trees found on Pender Islands. Nominations can be submitted using iNaturalist, Google Forms, or by email using a datasheet. There is no size requirement for the PIBTR – if a tree is “big” to you, it is big enough for the registry! Ideally, nominations will  be submitted including measurements such as diameter at breast height (DBH), height, crown spread, and location coordinates, alongside any notable observations. Specific instructions can be found in the measurement guidelines and the “how-to” video series created in collaboration with Nerdy About Nature.  Since the measurements of every tree nominated is verified by a Raincoast staff member, if collecting measurements doesn’t feel accessible, people can still send a big tree nomination. Upon confirmation, big trees are then added to the registry. 

Community nominations are not only integral to the existence and growth of big tree registries, they are also an opportunity for fun and connection in the forest. In addition, it is a perfect excuse to get outside and explore. Looking for big trees can open our eyes to all other life that surrounds them and instill a sense of purpose and responsibility in their protection. 

Raincoast will also be hosting events this summer to encourage folks on Pender Islands to find big trees as a community. Keep an eye out for Raincoast at the Pender Island market this summer and attend the Big Tree Blitz on August 13, hosted by Raincoast in partnership with the Pender Islands Conservancy. The Big Tree Blitz is an opportunity for community members to gather and get out into the forest to identify and measure big trees, enjoy snacks and prizes, and have lots of fun! 

Please reach out to Aria (bigtree [at] raincoast [dot] org) with any questions about the registry or upcoming events.

You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.