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Posts Tagged ‘woodlot’

Photo: Community Forests International.
The Wabanaki-Acadian Forest, made up of 32 species of hardwood and coniferous trees.

“This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
“Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
“Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.”

Who remembers the Longfellow poem “Evangeline” from school? The sad, Druidlike pines and hemlocks could never have prophesized what humanity would do to the forest that once covered this continent.

Today’s story, by Moira Donovan at the Christian Science Monitor, is about people who are taking a page from indigenous wisdom and working to preserve what’s left.

“On a sloping patch of forest in the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick, Mike Hickey is on the hunt for red oak. They’re not overly difficult to find on his 156-acre woodlot, even though it’s something of a scavenger hunt: The number of mature oak on this thickly wooded expanse can be counted on one hand. …

“He walks down a road past a pile of logs cut from red spruce and other species, many of which were harvested from trees blown down during storms. He uses them to produce his own lumber. … Finally, he arrives at a slope where a slender tree is still hanging on to its auburn leaves despite the winter chill. ‘One of them is up there,’ he says, pointing to a red oak. ‘One of my projects.’

“For the past 10 years, Mr. Hickey has been attempting to restore this woodlot – which has been in his wife’s family for a century – clearing space for long-lived native hardwoods like this oak tree. He’s done this by cutting away competitors, and planting other climate change-tolerant species such as white pine,

to restore this land to the forest that would have existed prior to colonization.

“In doing so, he’s part of a coalition of woodlot owners, Indigenous groups, and community organizations in the Canadian Maritimes that is attempting to protect a globally rare forest ecosystem from disappearing. 

“It’s a long-term vision, to be sure. In his woodlot, for instance, Mr. Hickey estimates it will be decades before the younger red oaks he’s shepherding even begin reproducing, part of a centurieslong rehabilitation timeline that he’s hoping to cut down by a couple hundred years.

“But there’s urgency here, too. Spurred by concerns about the impact of climate change and a rising tide of discontent around forest practices in the region, an increasing number of organizations and individuals are enacting measures they hope will not only restore the ecosystem, but help build bridges between the communities who depend on it. …

“ ‘People are obviously this huge force of change on the planet now, but we can be regenerative and restorative, and there’s actually thousands of years of precedent for that before colonialism,’ says Daimen Hardie, executive director of Community Forests International, a group working on the restoration of the Wabanaki-Acadian Forest. …

“It’s a place where the hardwood forests of the United States meet their boreal counterparts farther north. The result is a rare blend of hardwoods, such as red oak, sugar maple, and yellow birch, and coniferous species such as red spruce, white pine, and eastern hemlock – 32 varieties in all. It’s one of the most diverse temperate forests in the world.

“ ‘Any time in nature when you have two different ecosystems colliding, that overlap and that edge is particularly vibrant,’ says Mr. Hardie. ‘So we get the full diversity of both of those forests combining in this mixed wood, and that mix doesn’t happen anywhere else on the planet.’

“Unlike in Western or boreal forests, the Wabanaki-Acadian Forest’s composition makes it naturally resistant to destruction from forces such as wildfires. … But calamities have come for this forest, nonetheless. Less than 1% remains of the pre-settlement ecosystem that once covered much of the three Maritime Provinces, as well as the easternmost edge of Quebec and part of Maine. 

“When European settlers arrived in eastern North America, they found a forest that had evolved since the retreat of the glaciers, 12,000 years ago, and had been stewarded by Indigenous people for thousands of years. Colonists displaced Indigenous people and quickly denuded much of the land. For a time, most of the pine used by the British Navy came from New Brunswick, and North America’s first sawmill was built in Nova Scotia. In the 20th century, the trend accelerated, and since the 1980s, 40% of the remaining mature forest in the Maritimes has been lost. …

“Some hope that another unique feature of this landscape can be harnessed to help pull it back from the brink. Unlike forests in the rest of Canada, which are largely on government or Indigenous lands, nearly half of the forested acreage in the Maritimes is owned by small woodlot holders, of which there are approximately 80,000 in the region. …

“Says Mr. Hardie. ‘There’s this big opportunity for a more citizen-based, citizen-led change in forestry.’ …

“Research on woodlot owners in the Maritimes shows that most appreciate their forests for more than the timber they generate, says Andy Kekacs, executive director of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association and spokesperson for the Family Forest Network. People value their land for the biodiversity it hosts, the intergenerational responsibility it represents, and the recreation or solitude it provides – values that run counter to turning a quick profit from clear-cutting.

“But despite these virtues, clear-cutting continues even on private land. … This is why, in 2021, the Family Forest Network launched a five-year pilot project of 200 ecological harvests across Nova Scotia. It aims to show woodlot owners and forest contractors that restoring the ecosystem and mimicking the disturbance pattern of the pre-settlement forest – while supporting economic activity – are possible. 

“ ‘We want to say that, “for those of you who think that the only way you can profitably manage a forest is by clear-cutting, there are other things that you can consider and you can feel good about,” ‘ says Mr. Kekacs.”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall. Nice pictures.

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