Future-proofing the Boreal Forest

Future-proofing the Boreal Forest

Posted on August 29 by Malcolm F. Squires in Non-fiction
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Many of the demands we make of forest managers, if practiced, will ensure that the future forest will not be what we want or need.

For seven decades I have been a part of the eastern Canadian boreal forest. I grew up exploring and examining the forest of central Newfoundland Island. Despite living in a logging community and spending some summer vacations with my Dad in logging camps I disapproved of the way the forest was being harvested by the pulp and paper company that managed the land.

Over the next six decades while gaining experience as a logger, university student, professional forester, artist, and aspiring writer, and meanwhile moving from Newfoundland to Ontario, my views changed. The practice of clear-cutting that was once detestable to me became, in my opinion, the wise way to harvest trees in the boreal forest. During my career I was often the brunt of public criticism for practicing the very forestry methods that I detested as a youth. Attempts to explain my actions and the science behind them often bounced off closed minds.

Early in 2012 the Chronicle Journal daily newspaper in Thunder Bay, Ontario, accepted my proposal that they publish a series of articles that I would write. The articles would describe the forest and its responses to natural and human disturbances in northwestern Ontario. Over the three years the articles were printed I sensed from my reader’s reactions that the public’s attitude was changing. More individuals were willing to hear the industry’s story and the once trusted environmental activists were increasingly seen as dishonest “criers of wolf”. That bothered me. As a former industrial forester I experienced the positive change that occurred within the Canadian Forest Industry because of public reaction to poor practices, and I believe that more change can occur. If the general public is becoming skeptical of environmental activist’s tactics and their objectivity about boreal forest management then we are losing a powerful force for good.

I believe that we need to start a dialogue about our individual wants for the forest. We need to look at the forest as a unit and ask ourselves, “If I get what I want what will be the forest’s probable response?” We know a lot about how some species compete on small areas but less about how they interact at the forest level.

The time has come for all parties, who sincerely have the best interest of long term forest and human health as an objective, to demonstrate their sincerity and start working together. We need to cease antagonism, look for common ground, and together research the facts about our differences. With this new spirit of co-operation we can develop more constructive policy and action and better guarantee a healthy forest and world environment.

Malcolm F. Squires

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 18, 2016

Malcolm F. Squires

Malcolm (Mac) F. Squires graduated in 1963 from the University of New Brunswick with a B.Sc. in forestry. He worked first in Newfoundland and then in Ontario for thirty-four years as an industrial forester. He then moved to forestry consulting, while advocating for the boreal forest through visual art, writing, and speaking. He lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario.