The biggest known tree of its kind in Oregon is right in our backyard.
The tree, a 152-foot-tall thuja plicata, commonly known as a Western red cedar, lives off U.S. Highway 101, just south of Cannon Beach.
“We didn’t know about the tree,”?said Christopher Smith, a field organizer with the North Coast State Forest Coalition, which brought a group of hikers to the site on Tuesday.
Smith and his colleagues were notified about the tree by Darvel Lloyd, a Portland retiree who saw the tree in early May with his twin brother Darryl Lloyd, a professional photographer from?Hood River.
“We floundered around until we found it,” Darvel Lloyd said. “We just love finding old trees, giant trees.”
Lloyd’s passion for tree-hunting is in his blood: his father, Les Lloyd, was a forester who discovered Oregon’s then-biggest Douglas fir in 1941; the so-called “Clatsop tree” blew down a week after the Columbus?Day storm of 1962, according to Lloyd.
After more thoroughly investigating the location of the “Arcadia Cedar,” as Lloyd has taken to calling it, he found that the tree stands on a 286-acre parcel of land owned by the Board of Forestry.
But the parcel, known as Hug Point, is an island of public land amid an ocean of private holdings: Lewis and Clark Oregon Timber owns the land to the north and east, Stimson Lumber Company owns the land to the south and southwest and a private Astoria owner, Pacific Rim ERA, is trying to sell the land to the west as a $4.25 million residential subdivision.
The Hug Point parcel is on the Board of Forestry’s land exchange list under “high priority” because of “its isolated position on the landscape” and “its favorable position” to the timber companies’ “ownership and road pattern,” according to the Oregon Department of?Forestry’s Land Acquisition and Exchange Plan.
Darvel Lloyd was dismayed to learn that the Hug Point parcel could be traded to a timber company.
“The disconcerting thing is that it’s threatened,”?he said. Lloyd estimated that the tree was “800 or 900 years old.”
Pearl Rasmussen is the coalition’s field organizer for Clatsop County and an Astoria native. She and Smith led the hike to give community members an opportunity to see the surrounding old-growth forest and to spread the word about their conservation efforts.
“Most of the hikes and outings we do are to proposed conservation areas,”?Rasmussen said. “Mature forest conditions ... give us an idea of what this land would look like without human interference.”?
Rasmussen stressed that despite the parcel’s inclusion on the Land Exchange list, the process usually takes around three years and includes three different opportunities for public input.
According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, there are no current land exchanges being negotiated.
On June 5, the Board of Forestry unanimously created a new state forest land classification for “High-Value Conservation Areas.”?
The coalition worked for years on obtaining the new classification, and Smith thinks the Hug Point parcel deserves the designation.
“This is an ideal place for that classification,”?he said from under the shade of the ancient cedar.
Darvel and Darryl Lloyd learned of the giant Western red cedar after they began communicating with Brian French, a Portland arborist and founder of a nonprofit group called Ascending the Giants.
French pointed the Lloyd brothers to the Oregon Champion Tree Registry, which Ascending the Giants maintains.
As the brothers perused the registry, which lists the biggest trees by species, they noticed that French himself had nominated an 810-point Western red cedar in Clatsop County as the largest of its kind.
The points system uses a tree’s circumference, height and crown spread to calculate an overall size score.
The Arcadia cedar stands 152 feet tall, boasts a circumference of approximately 55 feet and a crown spread of 70 feet.
“We thought, ‘We’ve got to find it!’” Darvel Lloyd said.
The Arcadia cedar would not have eclipsed Klootchy Creek’s giant Sitka spruce, which was badly damaged in the Great Coastal Gale?of December 2007.
Since his initial visit, Lloyd has been publicizing the tree to organizations like the North Coast State Forest Coalition to bolster efforts to conserve the surrounding land – and the coalition has taken notice.
“We’ve ramped up our efforts to keep the department from trading this to a timber company,”?Smith said.
The group of hikers appreciated the opportunity to wend their way through the old-growth forest to see the state’s largest tree of its species.
“I enjoy the hikes,”?said Colette Heath of Astoria, who regularly participates in coalition events. “I?enjoy getting out in nature and they’re in the woods, and I love the woods.”?
Mark Wiltrakis of Astoria articulated the feelings of many.
“I?enjoy being in the company of large trees,”?he said.
The North Coast State Forest Coalition is organizing another hike to the Arcadia cedar July 14, and encourages those interested in the parcel’s preservation to write a letter or email to Oregon State Forester Doug Decker.
For more information on future hikes or informational meetings about land exchanges, email Pearl Rasmussen, the North Coast State Forest Coalition organizer for Clatsop County, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The coalition plans to hold a meeting on land exchanges some time in July.