“The natural disaster of a forest fire returns carbon to the soil, enriching it for the new forest to come. A clear-cut removes the trees that are the source of that carbon. To walk there is to see a landscape devastated as if by bombs. Reforestation? It seems that real care is taken only for the hills and mountains that border highways where tourists and people from the cities can see them. Those are the clear-cuts where the corporations put up signs to tell the passing cars when the forest was replanted and how well it is doing today.
“The corporations rarely harvest their trees right up to a highway. If you stop your car and walk 300 metres into a forest, you will often stumble across a clear-cut hidden from the cars that pass. The trees you see by the side of the road are the illusion of a forest left there to salve your conscience. Back out of sight, on the plateaus and hills and mountains, the forests are doing poorly. The variety of species is reduced to one of fir, pine, hemlock, spruce, tamarack, or whatever, depending on which of one or two species is likely to return the greatest profit.
“Diversity of species is anathema to the managers of the new forest. Monoculture is king. It is precisely what happened on the vast prairie, where rich and diverse grasslands were replaced with fields of grain. The landowner’s system of fallowing fields on alternate years allowed for massive evaporation from the bare earth. The moisture rising from the subsoils brought with it salts from the ancient seas that once covered the land, and when the moisture evaporated, it left the salt behind. Vast areas of the Great Plains are pocked with crystal deserts where nothing grows.”
~ excerpted from ‘The Forest’s Edge’, by Patrick Lane (The Walrus, May 2005)