Same Forest: Different Planets

Letter to the Editor: Cowichan Valley Citizen

Icel Dobell

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is a forest. To the one who beholds a forest as a “tree factory,” to quote a forester I recently met on Stoney Hill, revenue is the highest value and thus most beautiful. To one who places ecology (the inter-dependence of living organisms—from micro-organisms to trees) as the most essential value, then the long term health of a forest is the most beautiful. Herein lies the confusion of the forest debate that will continue until we finally have full and meaningful public dialogue about the management of our forests.

As exemplified in articles by the Mayor and me quoting forest experts, there are two points of view, two different languages—that of the industrial professional foresters (RPFs), managing tree plantations for now, in contrast with RPFs who prioritize ecological values: complex forests forever.

If you’ve read the Mayor’s recent letter in response to my last letter about Stoney Hill, you would probably not guess that we are friends. I have the greatest respect for the Mayor and yet our understanding of forest issues could not be more different, (as is our language). If you listen to us converse we might as well be from two different planets—Venus and Mars.

For instance, when the Mayor describes the salvage on Stoney Hill as “highly selective harvesting,” he quotes his experts. In turn, I would quote alternative experts:

Local logging supervisor and cable logger, Gino Gaiga, who recently entered the debate, (a courageous act for a logger of 40 years), says, “The harvesting on Stoney Hill is clear cutting. The few blowdown trees could have been extracted using a low impact machine that reaches out with a long line, with few live trees removed, and without skid trails,” (read roads big enough for machines—see videos on WhereDoWeStand.ca).

I contact Ray Travers, respected retired RPF, to ask for a forestry prescription of “highly selective harvesting” in the context of salvaging a natural occurrence. Travers says, “It requires clarity of intent and prudence to ensure good silvicultural decisions about what trees to leave and what trees to take. In conventional silvicultural practice this means pre-marking trees.”

On Stoney Hill, flagging tapes marked boundaries of salvage areas rather than a tree here or and there to be removed. In the end, within the patch cuts, a tree here or there was left standing.

When Gaiga and Travers describe what could have been done to alleviate fire risk while maintaining the canopy on Stoney Hill, my heart sinks as I survey several football fields of patch clear cutting. Then a forester tells me that the clear cutting is a “light touch” and I am mystified. For forestry, like ecology, like everything, depends on the beholder. Let the public debate begin now.

Learn more about blowdown recovery methodologies