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December 2014

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Logging Sustainability: A Wooden Conversation

Written by , Posted in Heat, Power, Shelter, Sustainability, Technology

A Wooden Conversation

Imagine, you’re walking through a dense forest, the trees towering above you. It’s serene with the sounds of bird song playing on the wind. You can even hear a woodpecker drilling into a nearby birch tree.

It’s a sight you could see in the extreme north or if you had a time machine able to send you back several centuries. There was a time when the world, and Canada in particular was a forest shrine, but then the scourge appeared: humanity. Within hours we started to clear land for agriculture, using the wood for building our houses. We’d work for years if not decades to craft our homes from the wild, our neighbours doing the same.

But then, the world shrank. Our neighbours weren’t just living across the valley, but across the hill. More and more people arrived, looking for the promised land, for the opportunity to build their own empires of gold and fur. Communities grew and more wood was needed to build homes for the people, barns for the animals, and saloons for the drunks. In great volume the forests were slaughtered until a concept was born called selective cutting.

Selective cutting is an easy concept. It entails choosing the most appropriate trees while leaving the forest to still grow and work.

This concept is the sticking point in most heated conversations about logging for two very important reasons. The first is because there are some wood pirates out there who forget that concept, primarily these days in the Amazon jungle. These uneducated dastardly fools slash and burn, destroying wide swaths of land in an effort to clear more acreage for agriculture. This misguided attempt depletes the greatness for the forest for a few decreasingly productive years for soybeans or switchgrass. There is no we or a concept of sustainability, only the I of earning a profit. This group should surely be hounded as treehuggers around the world are want to do. They should be stopped, have their equipment impounded, and their licenses revoked.

Because of the first group, a second group of people, most notably the tree hugging variety, make some assumptions, dangerous assumptions, that every logger is the same. That’s right, I’m saying they aren’t. In fact, when discussing logging, there is a reason why it is lumped into agriculture. There are many, if not most elements that tie these two industries together, most notably, the ability, nae, the requirement for our logging kin, the sawyers of the world to be the stewards of the land they process just as much as farmers are stewards of the land they plant.

There is a group of responsible loggers who do understand the concept of sustainability and selective cutting. In fact, this group in Canada for certain, has to adhere to these concepts and policies to work on crown land, land own by the government. This group has to log only the trees that are marked out for them. They know the difference between the mature trees which will not be long for the world and the others which will grow and continue their life saving ministrations of photosynthesis. You know, that part where trees make oxygen. Yes I know it’s more complex, but for now it doesn’t have to be.

But, back to the good loggers though… These fine ladies and gentlemen aren’t in it to make a boatload of money. A processing machine could cost as much as half a million dollars. Yes its likely your house doesn’t cost that much. These loggers likely work long hours, as many as 18 a day, because there is only certain times they can cut during the year due to load restrictions on the roads. These loggers are so in tuned with the land they leave it in as good or better shape than when they arrived.

After taking courses with the Ministry of the Environment, they know how to put down a culvert so they don’t change watercourses and skirt around environmentally sensitive areas. They leave saplings when they could just as easily drive over them on their way to their destination and leave the perfect amount of trash. No, not the Macdonald’s wrappers, the tree top. That trash is where the next generation of tress will sprout from, the seeds nestled into the nooks and crannies of the waste.

So I ask you, the next time you’re chaining yourself to a tree so someone doesn’t cut it down. Is that tree even alive? Do you know the difference between a large tree and a mature one? Wait a second and talk to the logger first. Make sure they are pent upon the world’s destruction before you paint them as such. And when you find the good guys, the heroes, ask them what you can do to make it more sustainable. Open a conversation before closing your mind.