Chainsaw Massacre

Accused tree-killer Grant Hadwin may still be armed and dangerous

Oct 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

THE QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS, a world biosphere reserve 60 miles off the coast of British Columbia, was home to the earth's last giant golden spruce—a single specimen of Picea sitchensis "Aurea." The tree had stood for 300 years, and was fast becoming the Queen Charlottes' main tourist attraction. But Grant Hadwin had other plans for it. A former logger and gold miner known for erratic behavior, Hadwin ripped into the six-foot-diameter spruce with a chainsaw on January 20, 1997. Two days later the legendary tree toppled.

Hadwin, who immediately claimed responsibility for the act, sent a Unabomber-style rant to local papers, indicting "university-trained professionals" for "the destruction of life on this planet." He was charged with criminal mischief and the illegal cutting of timber, and a trial date was set for February 18. But Hadwin, who left Prince Rupert Harbor on a stormy February 13 in his kayak, never made it to court. Four months later, pieces of his smashed boat were found on an island 70 miles north of Prince Rupert. Investigators at the time believed the wreck couldn't have been more than a month old. Hadwin could have capsized in the water or been killed in his kayak by enraged locals. But it's equally plausible that he paddled up the coast, went ashore, and then set his boat adrift. He was a competent woodsman and would have had no problem traveling inland through the bush and back into mainland civilization anonymously. (Some speculate that Hadwin was involved in the 2000 chainsaw vandalism of Luna, the redwood tree that Julia Butterfly Hill made famous.)

Back in the Queen Charlottes, local Haida Indians took cuttings from the golden spruce and planted one of the saplings in a park. It is surrounded by a chain-link fence topped by barbed wire—in case Hadwin ever returns.

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