Stoney Hill: stumps speak for themselves

Much has been said by both the Municipality and Where Do We Stand (WDWS) about the number of live trees taken to harvest the scattered blowdown on Stoney Hill, but the stumps speak for themselves.

WDWS stated, “Hundreds of live trees have just been logged on Stoney Hill” and “It’s not the removal of damaged timber only.’” The mayor responded in the Citizen with the adage about “a lie getting half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on.” He then wrote that the contractor estimates one live tree was cut for every 15 blowdown trees.

After the logging, we took a systematic look at the facts on the ground.

What we did: In two (of five) cut-blocks located in the interior of the forest, four of us attempted to count live trees compared with blowdown taken. We walked in two lines abreast, stopping at intervals, counting according to: obvious live trees taken—stumps rooted; obvious blowdown taken: roots above ground, or in a horizontal position; uncertain: stumps upended but difficult to determine if blowdown or moved from elsewhere.

It was sometimes difficult to distinguish between the categories because of the amount of debris and what appeared to be the relocation of stumps and debris—our methodology was not an exact science.

What we found : In one cut-block we counted 159 “live tree stumps,” 37 blowdown stumps, eight uncertain. Excluding the eight uncertain stumps, this equals approx. four live trees taken for each blowdown tree. In the other cut-block, we counted 165 “live tree stumps,” 80 blowdown stumps, four uncertain. Excluding the four uncertain stumps, equals approximately two live trees taken for each blowdown tree.

Everything is about context. Numbers are one thing on the page, another in a forest. Two live trees to one fallen or leaning may not sound enormous; in reality, it’s half the forest. In Stoney Hill, in both sites, the canopies were intact before the salvage; now they aren’t; sun pours into areas that were moist and are now drying out fast.

In retrospect, Dec. 20, nature and the wind did a little pruning. The weak fell, the strong remained. Logs were placed on the ground to break down into habitat and soil. Nature did what it does best — created long-term resilience. But I digress.

To return to the mayor’s “lie,” the facts are on the ground, exposed — no pants (or trees) on the stumps. As stated by WDWS, hundreds of live tree have been logged; the exact number is debatable. Time to count together.

As for the purpose of salvage/logging Stoney Hill, the question remains: Did we achieve the stated objective of decreasing fire risk and beetles? In many places there is more small flammable debris on the ground than before logging — to the eye it looks like a greater fire risk now. As for bugs — this is a whole other debate with evidence the public deserves access to.

The best that can be said, at this point, is we now have more lessons to learn from our logging practices. It’s time to come together as a community — as stated by council — in a transparent, open, inclusive, accountable public consultation about where we are headed before more fire/salvage/logging decisions are made. There was no consultation on the salvage. It has created confusion and mistrust. The debate about fire mitigation and salvage will be ongoing—time for all sides to be heard.

Next Council meeting, August 21, 1:30 pm, is at the Ramada Inn, Duncan. Staff will present its proposal regarding UBC’s participation, public consultation and the forestry review. At the last UBC presentation, the five UBC experts repeatedly stressed the importance of not moving forward without consultation.

Prof. Stephen Sheppard said public consultation and forest management is like a “choreography, a dance…that should be in sync.” For more information, go to WhereDoWeStand.ca.

Icel Dobell

North Cowichan

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