Around the signing of the Magna Carta in the year 1215 a Sitka Spruce tree sprouted from the Oregon coastal forest floor that over the next 700 years would grow 200 feet-tall. It’s crown eventually spanning 93 feet across, its trunk 16 feet wide and 56 feet around. It was the largest living carbon reserve in Oregon and the biggest Sitka Spruce in the country. In 1995 it was named the first Oregon Heritage Tree, and has since been visited by many. On December 2, 2007 a hurricane force windstorm blew the top portion of the tree over; it broke off about 80 feet up the trunk where it had been weakened by a bolt of lightning many years before.
Although the “Klootchy Creek Giant” was near the end of its natural life-span, it is interesting to note that this Sitka Spruce may have lived longer if the forest around it had not been cut down by humans. The “Klootchy Giant” grew up in the inner part of the forest, where winds are minimal. The trees that grow up in the outer portions of the forest are strong from continuous exposure to high winds. Ironically, the human intervention in the forest intended to preserve and honor this mighty tree may have contributed to its death by exposing it to more deterioration and higher winds than it was used to.
After some deliberation, the forest service decided to leave the fallen portion of the Klootchy Giant on the forest floor to become a nurse log for other trees. Though it is down, it remains on the list of Oregon Heritage Trees and can still be viewed by visitors to Clatsop County.
The protection of trees such as the Klootchy Creek Giant is an important part of the effort to slow down global climate change and reduce our atmosphere’s carbon content. A recent study conducted by the College of Forestry at Oregon State University that concluded 15 years of reserach has found that the forests of the Pacific Northwest–especially old-growth stands–“hold significant potential to increase carbon storage and help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in coming years if they are managed primarily for that purpose through timber harvest reductions and increased rotation ages”(Law 2009). The study also found that the forests from Oregon down to SanFrancisco hold about 2 billion tons of carbon–14 percent of the entire biomass of the nation. If managed properly, this amount could double in a few hundred years.
Law, Beverly. “Pacific Northwest forests could store more carbon, help address greenhouse issues”. Innovations Report. 11/29/2009. http://www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/environment_sciences/pacific_northwest_forests_store_carbon_address_135379.html