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The biggest western redcedar.

The champion of this prized species seems to stand almost forlornly as a symbol of a debt we owe the land.

Before VISA and MasterCard and Lewis and Clark, the Native Americans of the Northwest used "credit cards" in the form of totem poles made of western redcedar. Instead of writing nasty letters and hiring a collection agency, the creditor would carve a wooden statue depicting another man's unpaid debt in shameful symbolism for all the village to see. (It would be like VISA displaying your charge account Vegas style on your front lawn.) When the debt was paid off, down came the totem pole--with no annual fee.

Of course, the Native Americans had many other uses for redcedar including rope, roof thatching, blankets, and cloaks made from the inner bark. From the wood they made potlatch houses and sophisticated canoes some of which were 65 feet long and could carry 30 people. Lewis and Clark also chose this tree to make their boats for descending rivers to the Pacific.

Today we still prize redcedar for boat construction, although most of the decay-resistant wood ends up as shingles. But whereas the Native Americans and early explorers selected a few choice trees, now we harvest whole forests, causing champion-sized redcedars to be the exception rather than the rule.

The National Champion western redcedar was found by logger Wiley Duncan during a timber harvest near Forks, Washington. The goliath tree (exceeded in size only by the redwoods and giant sequoias) was saved by being No. 1; all others nearby finished last, as the surrounding clearcut testifies .

The champion, standing alone in 65 acres of stumps, is a thankful but feeble example of the restraint needed in our use of natural resources. Out of the ancient forest we have carved our own totem of debt, symbolizing what we owe the land. AF

Common name: Western redcedar

Scientific name: Thuja plicata

Location: Forks, WA

Nominator: Ken Hoover

Owner: Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources

Most recent measurement: 1977

Circumference at 4 1/2 feet: 732 in.

Height: 178 ft.

Spread: 54 ft.

Total points: 924
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Forests
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:located in Forks, Washington
Author:Bronaugh, Whit
Publication:American Forests
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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