The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

Forest, slash and the public

....We think of the forest around us as trees, trees for loggers to cut. Trees for parkland where a person can get away from concrete jungles. Trees where animals can find their food and sanctuary. And trees that generate great forest fires. But we seldom think of trees as the means by which our towns, villages and cities have been the cause for being built.
....Canada is a richly endowed forest country from coast to coast. From the fir and hemlock forests of B.C. to the black spruce forests of our eastern shores men have labored for generations, utilizing the benefits of our trees. Forest companies are accused of being land rapists and slash from logging is looked on by so many as man’s wastefulness, his disregard for nature or his callousness.
....I’ve been a logger and I think an appreciator of nature all my life. I have seen waste in our forest industry — and we unquestionably still waste this pre-cious product. But I say to today’s voices that would question the unsightliness of logging slash or would call loggers the defoulers of mother nature to ponder over a few of the following thoughts;
....Towns, villages and cities were built across this land in a great many cases because of man’s need for wood pro-ducts. From the time of the early sailors need for spars and timbers, to the present day need for building a house or reading a newspaper, com-munities have been built to supply such needs. Wherever the forests were prime, people moved to that area, and lived and worked and raised families. Certainly there are the ghost towns that evolved from the areas where the forest would not sustain a continual yield — but gradually through the years many permanent towns were established.
....I point out this rather simplistic fact because we too often forget that the forests have provided so many of our people with their wherewithal for so many generations.

....A second point that receives much criticism is that it is the large companies that lay waste to so much forested area. At least the finger is generally pointed at the corporations with the unsaid feeling that small sized companies do not cause such harm. I find this a bit difficult to take — and I say this without trying to act defensive for bigness. I’ve seen large and so-called small loggers commit bad log-ging practices – neither is to be excused – for their ignorance can only be corrected by a watchful public and sound forestry laws. Under today’s emphasis on closer utilization and a steadily more watchful forest service it is the large companies that stand so much to lose if they are negligent in their logging practices. Generally speaking large companies can afford a forester staff that are responsible for control of the forest area and the reseeding of future crops. The small logger with his limited work force and often limited financing has not always been in a position to worry about the next forest growth, and so in haste and igno-rance has sometimes left behind what would have been cleaned by the forester-guided larger company.
....Normal slash, that is debris left on the ground in the form of limbs, tops and other unmerchantable pieces of wood is an eyesore to the uninformed. But one point that is all too often left out of the list of explanations of why we do what we do in logging, is the fact that the earth needs that normal slash to keep it’s soil rejuvenated. Slash rots in the rotation time of a cut-away forest and provides the future trees with their food. If a forest area were picked clean of every tree every limb and every stump, it would simply be a matter of time before that soil became barren of food value and trees would not grow. This has happened in history – but because logging rotation of forests are similar to the life span of man, our memories grow short when we have to look ahead two or three hundred years. Farmers or gardeners

realize the seriousness of rejuvenating the soils of their farms or gardens by tilling or fertilizing or other means – and these methods apply to forests but with a very different time span than yearly crops or flowers.
....It has been said that the practice of slash burning and the resultant charring of stumps etc. only prolongs the rotting of the wood back into the soil. This may be a point and a valid one for the protests of the fall smoke-out we create. I am against the practice of slash burning and believe it could be avoided. Hazard and replanting are used as the two main reasons for slash fires, but apart from a very large accumulation of brush in a concen-trated area, I see no undue hazard if proper protection is given by patrols. Nor do I believe that we need to burn brush away in order to replant. It is simply cheaper to burn than to hire people to clear small plots for seedlings. A clearing crew would be needed to go ahead of the planters – and clearing crews would be needed to reclear around the seedlings for a period of a few years until the small tree was out of danger from the adjoining brush.
....Where slash burning has taken place there is no guarantee that a second fire could not take place in the same area years later. We often cause untold damage in fringe burning of the surrounding forest in a slash burn. Add to this the destruction of soils in rocky areas where the duff is burned away and it seems to make little sense for this annual fall smoke screen of our towns and cities. Far better to spend the wasted money on slash forest protection so that fires cannot start. I believe this type of policy will steadily grow in the future as the pressures of the public demand an end to the smoke.
....I bring forward the problems of slash burning because of the constant outcry of our public against the forest industry. I do not believe that it is good for our industry to have this type

British Columbia Lumberman, October, 1973

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of confrontation with its public. I do not believe we in the industry explain in common sense words the reasons for slash, nor do I believe we are following a correct policy in allowing our slash areas to be burned. We owe more to the public than the simple explanation that we are required to burn by forest service laws. Possibly those laws are out dated and our Forest Service and Industry need to collaborate on new laws that fit the times.
....Research into the means of utilizing more of our waste in slash areas has not been a priority, and yet if the problem were looked at in this manner we may find that we can still leave enough “food” on the ground but still utilize more of the wood content than we now do. But how does the logger economically utilize some of this waste? How does the logger utilize large old stumps of the western forest or snag tops or big limbs? Methods will someday be found for this but until we do we must simply put up with allowing this waste to occur and lose the value that is staring at us.
....Through the media our public has become increasingly aware of this vast forest industry. Any company large or small engaged particularly in logging, must be aware of this public and its questions and should be prepared at all times to keep information in front of its public. It seems at times that too much of the information that companies put out is of a defensive nature over some problem that has occurred. Too many public relations men spend too much of their time covering up one problem after another instead of being able to spend their efforts on an intelligent good image of real forestry matters that need explaining.
....The social laws of our country are changing rapidly. The sensitiveness of politicians toward their constituents has an awareness that was never as sharp as now. The media are out to inform and out to “sell papers” and the public are the beneficiaries of all this.
....It is a “with it” company that has a policy today of accommodating its public. By this I mean to provide small campsites in its forested areas. To provide personnel to look after the campsites and give travelers infor-mation. There is more to this than “letting people use our roads” policy. The public recognize today that nearly all the forest land in B.C. is crown land. They want access to their land and access to campsites and good roads and if it is provided in a manner

of sensible information officers the public will respond with a better understanding of the company.
....There will be new forestry legislation coming to B.C. We have been told that. Before everything has to be legislated would it not be a good idea to try to anticipate some of that policy and move toward it now. Particularly where the public is concerned.
....The story of slash burning, of access roads, of campsites, of infor-mation are all issues that the public are interested in and they are issues that forest companies should be doing something about. Some companies are — is yours?
....Keep out of the bight,
British Columbia Lumberman, October, 1973