On 22 January 1997, a 48-year-old unemployed forest engineer named Grant Hadwin surreptitiously felled the tree as a political statement against industrial logging companies. He was later arrested but disappeared on his way to trial. According to John Vaillant's book The Golden Spruce, what is believed to be Hadwin's broken kayak and effects were found on a remote island some time after he went missing in a rough sea. Whether he had been murdered for his crime, accidentally drowned, or left his belongings behind on purpose is not known.In 1977, a group of botanists from the University of British Columbia (UBC) visited Haida Gwaii to take cuttings. These cuttings were grafted onto an ordinary sitka spruce, resulting in golden saplings. The trees were grown in the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. Upon hearing of the tree's destruction, the arboretum offered one of the young trees to replace the fallen tree. The sapling died in storage before it could be replanted on Haida Gwaii. In addition, attempts were made to propagate approximately 80 parts of the felled tree.
The only wood harvested from the tree was used by Nova Scotia luthier George Rizsanyi and broadcaster Jowi Taylor to make a guitar dedicated to Canadian history. Included in the guitar were pieces of wood from Pierre Trudeau's canoe paddle and Paul Henderson's hockey stick and fabric from one of Karen Kain's ballet costumes.