In this book review we look at Big Lonely Doug by Harley Rustad. It’s more than just a story of a lone fir tree; it’s about the history and ecology of our forests. By Malcolm Johnson.

On a winter’s day in 2011, forest engineer Dennis Cronin set out to survey a patch of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island, marking clear-cut boundaries for fallers and machines to follow. Cronin had worked in the woods for decades, but this day was different, he happened upon a Douglas fir of kingly size, now confirmed as the second biggest in the country. He could have left it to the saw, but instead he flagged it with green tape that said, “leave tree.”

The surrounding cutblock was inevitably logged, but the tree Cronin spared—taller than Niagara Falls and worth tens of thousands of dollars as lumber—has now become well known as Big Lonely Doug. A towering widower, Doug is seen by many as a symbol of our diminished rainforests: a splinter of what once was, stuck in the ground of what now is.

Big Lonely Doug tells the story and its aftermath in full. Much like The Golden Spruce, it’s more than the biography of a single tree. British Columbia-born Harley Rustad delves into the history and ecology of our forests, the ongoing destruction of old-growth, and the misunderstandings between those on opposing sides of a divisive issue. It’s a good read for anyone interested in northwest forests—and, as the last great stands continue to fall, an important one.