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Forestry on Vancouver Island

I tagged along with some people working in the forest near my home on Vancouver Island. Our Island has been supplying wood to the world for a hundred years now, and you can see the impact everywhere you go, especially when you venture off the main roads a little. Some parts are beautiful, other places look like the surface of the Moon.
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22 comments
 
We have a great deal of such forestry here in Michigan, as well. I comprehend the human necessity, but scenes like this are like the Holocaust for people like me: I'd prefer we had fewer people, and more trees.
 
Fraser, I've worked in treeplanting for many years. I've planted over 2,000,000 of the little devils myself. These clearcuts are planted and grow back. So Earl, holocaust might be a little strong. Trees can be harvested sustainably.
 
Yeah, it's more like farm. You can see the successive generations of trees that were planted. As long as they don't cut into the old growth forests any more, and keep room for wildlife, it should be sustainable.
 
There's precious little old growth left, that's for sure.
 
Good pics. I love trees, (you might enjoy #TreeTuesday ) but I am also a gardener. There is certainly beauty in a vast carpet-like field of ripening corn, or miles of forest treetops; but is the recently harvested bare earth always ugly devastation, can it sometimes be proof of hard work and good stewardship rewarded with bounty, plus the promise of another season's planting to come? Do we beat up on corn/wheat/soybean farmers for having fallow fields between one season's fall harvest and the next spring's planting? I Hope the companies who harvest trees on Vancouver Island manage their land like good farmers/gardeners and eventually replant those "Moon surfaces" with baby trees at the right time for the next generation to enjoy looking at until harvest season comes again.
 
+Evan Gough A little strong, perhaps, but forestry plantations are not stable, long-term ecosystems with appropriate understories and habitats, and when we harvest them, we destroy the habitats that have come into being since the last harvest. Just because we can kill something and replace it with something similar doesn't make the situation acceptable to me. But short of having fewer people, or using alternative materials [many of which are worse!], there's no real alternative; I accept that, even as I object to it. :)
 
Lets not forget the huge amounts of dirt washed into streams killing salmon producing streams, besides leaving the mountainsides bare bedrock.
 
I'm not really here to defend forestry, but having intimate knowledge of the industry in my area, I can correct a few things. Earl, you're right that a tree farm isn't a forest. But it's not total devastation either. Deer thrive in a clearcut after it's been harvested a year or two. Then people like me come along and plant trees in it. Then after about 7-10 years, the trees are dominant enough to crowd out other vegetation. But the trees are all the same age, so it's not really a forest. Where Fraser and I live, the industry is pretty highly regulated, so there's not much dirt washed into streams and killing salmon anymore. We're going to harvest and use resources, no way around it. So in that sense, where I live anyway, harvest and then replanting forests is not too odious.
 
Earl -- There aren't many ways to get fewer people and more trees that most folks would find acceptable -- many of them I'd strongly object to. 
 
+Paul Williams dirt, top soil, logs, branches, bushes often get washed down into streams turned into rivers after clear cutting when the first hard rain hits. I've seen small streams before clear cutting turn into raging rivers brown with silt and top soil, moss and anything else that isn't solid bedrock.

It doesn't matter what regulations they put in, when they denude a mountain the topsoil gets washed away. All they do is mitigate the damage a small amount when they don't cut within X meters of a stream.

I've lived on Vancouver Island all my life, and there is a huge difference between what the forestry companies are "required by regulation" to do, and what they actually do when they are out of sight when most of the enforcement have been fired by the BC Liberal government and the fox is put in charge of the hen house. And they are almost always out of sight. There is also differences between what they can cut if they own the land. You'll pardon me if I don't get the scientific name for dirt right, but be it dirt or top soil, I don't trust the forest companies to police themselves.  They are also supposed to clean up the sites rather then just leave all the trimmings around as a fire hazard, they are supposed to pull crap and cuttings out of the stream beds. But they often don't. They often leave their garbage around. I've seen logging sites that are decades old and were never cleaned up properly.

Not every company, not every site is bad. But the government isn't policing them well enough.

BTW, I know a biologist who is working for one of these companies,  and he doesn't seem to think they do a great job of policing themselves. You won't catch him saying so in a public place with his real name though. He wants to keep his career.

When I was young we were told that there was enough forest in British Columbia that we would be able to log forever. But if single acre of old growth is suggested for park the companies scream  the end of the world is nigh and that there isn't enough wood for them to cut. They can't have it both ways. Either they have been good stewards and there is plenty of wood to cut, or they have not and they need to cut down every single old growth tree to keep the companies going.

These days many of the back roads that I traveled in my youth are gated and the public can no longer see what the companies do. So the only people checking on them are the companies employees. I don't think that's good enough.
 
Well, you've said a lot. And by your own admission, most of what you've seen is a long time ago. I"m not here to argue in favor of logging. But you're being a little extreme. I'm in the woods all the time, as a treeplanting supervisor. I go behind the gates all the time. It's not the wanton devastation that you say it is. Having said that, there are places where different regulations should be used, i.e. the North Island where the rainfall is extreme. Large clearcuts on steep slopes can clog streams after landslides. And the companies claim that the landslides like this aren't caused by clearcuts. That's debatable, IMO.
 
+Evan Gough I totally agree. This is a farm. People don't freak out when the wheat fields are cut down in preparation for replanting. 

As long as the old growth forests aren't cut any deeper, and the habitats and long term sustainability of the environment is protected, forestry is necessary. People need wood.
 
+Evan Gough Please show me the word "devastation" in my previous comment. I think your reading more into my comment because your an invested participant.

And it wasn't "a long time ago" I've seen the effects of recent logging on the west coast between Sooke and Renfrew and the streams turned to brown rivers while branches and small cut logs raged by. Four years ago. Seven years ago outside of Campbell river close to Strathcona Park the area was full of crap left behind by the company. I could see it for miles. This wasn't old work, but clearly left for years. But I'm sure all the poor practices I've seen are just aberrations. Sure.

 You admit it yourself. You can't clear cut on the side of a mountain and not have consequences. You can watch it being washed away. Perhaps you've become accustomed to seeing shoddy work practice for so long it's become the new normal. It happens to lots of people.

I'm in favour of enforcement by government employees, not self enforcement by forestry companies by paid employees of those companies. For the exact same reason I'm in favour of government employees inspecting our meat instead of company employee's. I'm also in favour of the same rules for logging private land as for public.

And +Fraser Cain  Your statement "as long as the old growth forests aren't cut any deeper" . Are you suggesting they are not currently cutting old growth? If so this is simply not true.

Mr. Cain, I don't see too many farmers with wheat fields on the sides of mountains in the pacific northwest that are harvested then not planted for years. Or where 50 percent of the crop dies when replanted.  I don't know of too many wheat farmers with 50 year crop maturity times. Neither do wheat fields lay bare for three to five years, the time it takes for enough brush growth to slow soil erosion. Your comparison of logging to wheat farming is absurd. And that is being generous.

I don't recall saying I was against logging. To be clear, I'm not. I'm arguing against clear cutting and certain practices I have seen.

So on the one hand, I'm being extreme, and I'm wrong, well, except for the sides of mountains and the landslides, and the other, I'm freaking out, well, except for the cutting of old growth. Shaking my head.
 
+Evan Gough By the way, just where exactly did you get the idea that "And by your own admission, most of what you've seen is a long time ago."

No such thing was stated. I did mention what "we were told" when I was a kid. Not what I've seen. Which is from when I was a kid to very recent. I think your reading more into the comment then what is there.
 
Sorry Mike. Someone else used the word devastation. Not you. Also, the long time ago thing was in reference to your 'driving the logging roads' comment. I didn't mean to misrepresent your viewpoint. (Busy teaching my kid math as I type) I'm not trying to to get into a heated argument. Just offering my experience to correct a couple inaccuracies if I can. I've lived on Van Isle my whole life as well. We've been fed lots of propaganda. But the island hasn't been devastated. It would be more correct to say that the forests have been turned into farms.
 
+Evan Gough It's not heated, certainly not on my side. There is no need to be sorry. I just wanted to be clear.
 
+Fraser Cain 
This is a farm. People don't freak out when the wheat fields are cut down in preparation for replanting.
*Raises his hand.* Actually, that's one of the main areas of my concern. Agricultural land is, practically speaking, far, far worse than logging in most ways, and has many fewer controls, because it's less visibly ruinous. But anything short of wilderness troubles me, so I try not to evangelize too much. ;)
 
+Earl Hollar And the same thing goes. It's a problem when the topsoil degrades and land is worsened. If it can be sustainable through better practices, then we can be sure these resources are available for future generations.
 
+Fraser Cain Loss of soil fertility is definitely one of the major concerns, as is habitat loss, erosion, increases in salinity, general desertification and so on. It's a really difficult position to be in: we have a lot of people, and they want a lot of stuff, and they don't like starving, so it's not like we can say, "Well, the Namibian Guano Toad won't have its home if you plant here," because people - well, most of you ;) - care significantly less about the Namibian Guano Toad than they do about humans.

You've hit on the key, of course: sustainability. Often we use the term naively, as people do when they're talking about, say, ethanol production, which is usually anything but sustainable, but used properly, it basically means, "We can keep doing this forever," and that's a goal I don't mind. Yes, yes, I'd be happier if we had a world population of a million or so humans and the planet looked more like it did a hundred thousand years ago, but I'm willing to compromise. ;)
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