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  • Writer's pictureThe Low Down

Witness to clear-cutting of trees

In response to Michèle Labelle’s letter in the March 10 edition of The Low Down, “Changes to operation, management of forests in past 20 years,” I would like to add my own experience.

A few years ago I was on a return flight from the U.K. flying over northern Quebec. I was gazing out of the window at the fantastic and awe-inspiring Canadian Shield landscape so far below. I could see from that height what at first I thought must be farmland — distinct areas with straight borders that were a different colour from the dark green and grey of the vast forests and rocks. I thought we must be coming to the area around Lac Saint-Jean, which indeed has lots of farmland. But as my attention became more focused on the scene below, I could see that every lake and river within these discoloured areas was surrounded by a thin, darker green border, the same colour as the dark green forests. Then it dawned on me that I was looking at massive areas of clear-cut.

The year was 2010.

Governments and industry get away with this kind of abuse because most people just don’t get to see it; out of sight, out of mind, you might say. It never left my mind though.

I have been working in the “forest” industry for almost 30 years. Not quite forestry, but wood heating. I love the way wood heating ties into the natural process of photosynthesis — forests creating oxygen and drawing in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which they then release when they die. But this beautiful cycle only works when you have healthy forests. Rows of monoculture trees are not forests. A large part of the forest life is in the ground and the soil, and you can just imagine what happens to the soil in a monoculture plantation. A planted monoculture forest is like a person on life support.

Now we have a new aspect of the forestry industry: the use of the leftover scrap wood, which is dried into pellets to be used as “biomass” heating. While this could be a good idea, it doesn’t have any positive effect if the forestry operation is not carried out in a positive way in the first place.

It’s catching on though. Countries are getting green “credits” for using biomass to run electricity grids and industrial use. I saw a recent documentary on how old forests in Romania were being clear-cut specifically for the biomass industry. It’s happening all over the world. It’s happening right here in Canada. I am a witness to it.

Renny Lambton is a resident of La Pêche.

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