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hugulpermaculture/forestry: burning rants and Q's

 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi y'all

Every fall for a good chunk of my life, local forest companies have burned massive heaps of "waste" material (mostly tree tops, stumps, buttress bottoms, and branches all dumped or pushed into heaps, and burned in the late fall/early winter when there is little chance of forest fires (some of these burn/smolder all winter under the snow and do indeed become forest fires in the spring). In the past, before this method was common, the forest companies would burn the entire clear-cut, which they would say is mimicking a natural forest fire, but that was proven false (for a bunch of reasons), and those fires often got out of control starting real forest fires in valuable timbered sites. Wouldn't life be grand if the ministry of forests-or whatever the heck the latest government name is for the folks in charge of these decisions-would understand the great loss of biomass, the loss of nutrients, the loss of moisture retaining rotting matter, the loss of carbon, the loss of an atmosphere free of smoke, the loss of erosion protection, the loss of micro-climates, the loss of... {insert a thousand other benefits that are inherent in keeping the biomass in the forest}; And wouldn't life be grander still, if the powers that be understood hugulkultur, and what it's benefits might be in utilizing all of that "waste wood" to provide massive benefits, mitigating all of those problems, while enhancing the forest to recover through increasing it's ability to hold water in the best possible locations.

I spent my formative years in a logging camp, near some of the largest clear-cuts that existed on the planet at that time (the cut and run heyday of the Late Sixties and Early Seventies), and was so entrenched into the ideology of industrial logging that clear-cuts seemed normal. I'm not a fan of this style of logging at all, but it took me years before I questioned it. I've seen the rape and pillage, wholesale sellout of our primary softwood lumber resources, and watched my hometown go from three industrial mills roaring 24 hours per day and trainload after trainload after barge load after barge load of raw logs leave my province, to watching the industry crash in a series of decimating cycles where towns have been destroyed and many of the mills in towns that are still struggling closed, the population displaced and forced into the cities or the oil and gas industry. I would have much preferred if they had taken a slower smarter approach, considered the forest to be the community that it is, respected the wisdom of First Nation's forest stewardship, adopted selective logging practices as well as secondary and tertiary industries to add much value to the trees that were removed, to realize some of the potential of the rest of the forest's many products without destroying them, and have forest practices that enhance the growth potential at every level (I could go on and on), but this was not to happen. What did happen, and what continues to happen, more often then not, is the clear cut.

A preliminary question: If they are going to clear cut, why can't they at least keep the biomass-that they choose not utilize for lumber making-in the forest, and at least lay it out so that it reduces erosion? Wouldn't that be nice? It should be obvious; these foresters---if they ever stepped into the forest to observe it, rather than just looking at the forest in terms of board feet for 2X4's--- should see what the biomass does.

I guess the burning question in my mind is does anybody else see the massive black hole of ignorant behavior that surrounds slash burning? And does anybody else wonder about how amazing it would be if (considering they think they must clear cut to make profit), they were to actually utilize their seemingly endless supply of machines and gasoline to make hugulkulturs out of all that biomass instead of piling it up and burning it? And wouldn't it be great if, considering that they have to have some kind of planning process to get permit do cut down trees on public land, that perhaps, somehow, they could be using permacultural concepts to enhance the planning of the road building (which at the present is massively eroding), as well as the layout of the hugulbeds to best enhance forest recovery from the massive damage inherent in a clear-cut?

Sigh. Perhaps I'm just screaming into a storm of roaring machines or at a line up bureaucrats streaming out red tape! Does anybody else see this massive waste every year and dream of all that waste being put to amazing use? Think of the blueberry and huckleberry crops that could be produced on those huguls or the tree seedlings and creeks that could be protected!!!

It drives me nuts as well that I would love to have some of this waste wood brought to my property to build hugulkulturs for my own berry production (or to use as funky posts in my home! or to burn the rocket stove that I will build within a year! or to make biochar for berry crops!) but the cost of getting it to my land is prohibitive, and it is actually illegal to remove it, even if they are planning to burn it! Oh the waste, the loss, the... the... well, whatever... what do you all think? Thanks for "listening" to my rant.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I hear you! Here in my region, with increasing drought, erosion, loss of topsoil, worsening air quality, the normal procedure is to burn huge piles of brush and entire trees every time it rains. Oh, and old mattresses, coolers, tires, etc. Sometimes even piles of manure!

Not sure how to get new ideas into people's heads. They have to be open to new ideas, or even looking for new ideas, I think.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You are right to be outraged, but one must remember that there are few ways for the people to correct a wrong that has been endorsed by elected government officials.
Unless you can get enough of the voting people on your side and get them to vote out the offending officials, there is little that will be done to correct the issue.
This goes for all governments and all countries that elect their government officials.

The alternatives are Illegal in those countries or they would be considered Treason or Murder. Not viable for most folks.

I suppose you could go on a sabotage spree aimed at the logging companies, but this would make you a criminal and hunted person of interest.

Educating these people only works if you have a profitable alternative model to show them how much more money they would make if they only did the right thing.
This means you first have to have the model created, be able to show that it really works and also have bottom line figures from an actual operation to prove you are right and that the money is there for the taking.

The best method possible would be to start your own logging operation and use your model consistently. Then, being one of the "boys" would go a long way in allowing you to influence their thinking.
It would still be a long road but the more profit you could show being made by your companies policies, the more they would listen and probably then start using your model themselves.
That is how big business works.
It is unfortunate but greed is the prime motivator of every big business I've ever come across and unless you can play by their rules you will be given lip service to get you going on your way, then they will simply ignore you.
 
Denis Huel
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As the saying goes, common sense is really not that common. In an age when rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, deteriorating soils and declining energy sources seriously threaten our future, burning biomass simply to get rid of it, is to put it bluntly, stupid. Unfortunately we can rarely look to governments and bureaucrats for true leadership and large industry is focused solely on its next few year profits. After decades of trying to be a good citizen maybe I am turning into a cranky old man but I now try to do more of what make sense and what is right and less what some local/regional government regulation says I must.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here folks can't blame the guvmint for their dopey behavior, as we have relatively little regulation 'round these parts. Everyone can pretty much wreck their land (and everyone's air and water) to their hearts' content.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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I do very much appreciate you all who read and understand me! I'm glad that I am not alone in my observations and sentiments. Thanks. I really appreciate your comments. That's what this community really means to me, besides all the great info!

Denis, I hear ya about the government, and choosing to do the right thing regardless of the law, and Tyler, I hear ya that idiots do what idiots do, and can't blame the guvmint for that!

In spite of it being a great idea to prove the system by starting an ecologically/permacultural logging company, I don't think that that is in my future. I would still be beating my head against a wall to convince the powers that be who are largely sponsored and educated by an industry with dollar signs dancing in their eyes. I doubt they would even give me lip service. I can hardly imagine that.

Herb Hammond, a holistic forester who wrote the epic holistic forestry book "Seeing the Forest Among the Trees", has tried his best to do this already, continuing beyond the book to create the Silva Foundation to promote ecological logging. It was in his book that I first really understood, (many years ago, now) the amount of water that rotting wood can hold. And there are examples of extended use of holistic forestry practices... Merv Wilkinson's "Wildwood Forest woodlot on Vancouver Island is one famous example that comes to mind off the top of my head. He increased the percentage of quality timber on his woodlot without planting trees!

I do really appreciate your insight into this, Bryant, but I think the best thing to do might be to head off on a slight tangent from your suggestion from creating my own company to convincing one of the three local community forest groups (Mcbride, Dunster, and Valemount), to try to hugulkulture their woody material, or at least (and probably more likely/realistic) lay it out so that it decays where it will have the most benefit to the landscape/ecology.

I do have some sway in the minds of the leadership in the Dunster group. The president asked my opinion about a few things one night at a non related social gathering, and I did mention this sort of idea to him then. That might be a way to start, and if the project took off, it might gain inclusion in some local media coverage in the papers. That would mean I'd have to go to meetings... yuck, but oh well; it might actually bear fruit. I figure that if they were to just lay out the 'waste' material so that it collects up-slope debris/moisture/nutrients, especially around any drainage patterns, this might be enough to settle me down.

Again, thanks for listening.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau, Roberto, That is great that you have some willing ears already in the logging industry. I wish you all the best luck, I am sure you can persuade them to give growing mounds a trial, what have they got to loose? nothing. The gain for them is a way to get the current ecology groups helping them and doing most of the mound building. That way the company isn't having to pay their folks to do that part, I am sure they would look at that as a big plus along with the good will a project like yours would foster for the logging industry.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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If they can see those pluses through my presentation of the ecological benefits, then I guess the only thing they have to lose is some time and gas. Perhaps if they would be burning gas and time to build up the waste piles and hiring someone to burn them, then those costs are somewhat or perhaps totally mitigated, yes. Otherwise, those both can mean money, as their time is valuable and the gas burned to move the logs is obviously costing somebody, and that perhaps could be the hurtle that holds them back. I will try to involve myself before the winter is through. Peace, and thanks for your input and encouragement.
 
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