The Loggers : ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
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Much of British Columbia's economy has been based on what are often called natural resources, such as trees and fish. In the Cowichan region, the logging of trees changes the landscape, raising concerns about the natural environment. Maintaining a home for local wildlife and protecting clean-flowing water from streams, lakes and the Cowichan River for fish, animals and people is important. The local economy continues to be tied to the logging and mill industries, so the question of how to keep working the forests while leaving trees for future logging is challenging. How do the communities of the Cowichan Valley address these issues?
Organizations with environmental concerns have played a large role in the communities of Cowichan. Independent citizens, groups, councils and municipal, provincial and federal governmental services have added their voices to the debate over environmental issues.
Many early logging operations would take the trees they wanted and move on to another piece of land, leaving the forest to regenerate itself. By the 1930s and 40s, companies were beginning to practice replanting, sending workers out to former logging sites to put seedlings into the ground. There are some who feel this is not the correct way to begin a new forest, and some who insist that what is cut must be replaced with young trees.
In 1929, the British Columbia Forest Service set up the Cowichan Lake Experimental Station for forest research. A work camp during the Depression years, it was opened to federal researchers and reforestation projects in 1941. They produce tens of thousands of grafts and rooted cuttings each year in order to experiment with the growth process of trees.
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In 1995, the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Cooperative was created to look at ways of practicing forestry to both benefit the natural environment and maintain job opportunities for men and women working in the industry. With a board made up of representatives from the local First Nations community, the town of Lake Cowichan, the IWA Local 1-80 and the Cowichan Valley Regional District, among others, it is attempting to get the residents of Lake Cowichan involved with the forests ecosystem that is both their home and their livelihood.
In October of 2000, the District of North Cowichan released its Environmental Management Strategy to identify and protect environmentally sensitive areas, particularly in the watershed, that could be impacted by development. Protecting water goes along with the protection of the forests and biodiversity, which is the range of living things existing within the local ecosystems. From 2002 to 2004, water-related conservation was addressed by the South Cowichan Stewardship Project.
Forest management is a phrase that is often used to describe the process of tending trees that will be cut, sold and replanted. Silviculture is the science and practice of caring for forests with respect to human interests, a form of agriculture involving trees. But many people feel that the forest is much more than a source of income, and value it for the home it provides for plants, animals and insects, and the effect it has on the climate. For some, including the Coast Salish peoples of Cowichan, the forest is also a place of spiritual and historic significance. Cowichan communities continue to look for a way to keep the loggers logging as well as preserving the other roles of the trees, but the path to that approach can be challenging and emotional.