Wild thoughts on a wet day
By Jim Poling
I listen for sounds of movement but the woods are as silent as the wet stones on the hillside. Rain drips off my hunting cap brim, each drip telling me that no sensible deer, or person, would be out in this foul weather.
I am too stubborn to go home and get out of the wet. So I sit in the rain, thinking wildly abstract thoughts.
One of my wilder thoughts is about why we can’t make some use of all the dead and dying wood in the forest. The forest floor is littered with trees that have died and fallen, or been taken down by the wind or in logging. And, there is much standing dead that remains solid and sturdy.
This is especially noticeable today, and not just because my mind is damp and wandering. I am in a logging area behind Dan Lake in the Frost Centre lands. The amount of wasted wood left here to rot is astonishing.
Aside from the usual deadfalls there are piles of tree crowns, hundreds of chunky branches and a variety of logs left behind.
This is not a criticism of the loggers, who are doing what they are instructed to do. They are following guidelines set by the Ministry of Natural Resources which oversees the logging.
In fact, they appear to be going beyond the guidelines. In one staging area they have left standing a magnificent and elderly yellow birch which will live a bit longer to spread its seeds. And they have been more than tolerant of any hunters or others passing through their work areas.
The crowns and branches and leftover logs are being left to rot because that’s what the government wants.
Some time back I let slip within earshot of a government official that I was taking firewood from a logged over area. I received a lecture on why it is good to leave wood to rot in the forest and was told to apply for and pay for a licence to collect firewood.
The official’s lecture on the benefits of letting wood rot in the forest was correct, to an extent. Trees that die naturally are a necessary part of the cycle of forest life.
However, logging, which when done selectively aids forest health, creates more rotting wood than any forest needs. Clearing out the excess and putting it to use would be helpful to the forest and to people who could use it.
I can think of several uses, the most important being firewood for heating. Many people turned to electric heat for homes and cottages in the days when electricity was affordable. Now the cost of heating electrically is prohibitive for many people and they depend more on firewood.
The government says people can collect firewood on Crown lands if they apply for a licence and pay government timber charges.
Charging citizens for collecting firewood from deadfalls and logging leftovers is an example of government and its bureaucracies at their worst. There is no cost to government for people to collect fallen timber for firewood, so licensing charges are simply another tax, another money grab.
If there is a need to supervise people collecting firewood from extensive deadfall areas, let private organizations do it. Church groups, service clubs and the such could supervise deadfall harvesting and make a few much needed bucks doing it.
Governments do not view wood as a renewable heating resource important to people living outside major urban areas. They see it as a pollution problem, which is nonsense considering the many sources of human-made pollution.
Government thinking on fuel wood will not change because government policies, even policies affecting rural areas, are made in downtown urban areas. They are made by urbanites who listen to major media outlets, lobbyists and special interest groups, all of which occupy urban downtown offices.
Yes, rain falling in a quiet forest tends to produce abstract thoughts. Thoughts that bring to mind Henry Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience, in which he accepts that “government is best which governs least,” and by extension “government is best which governs not at all.”