We must redefine ‘sustainable’

Even 10 years ago, I believe growing more trees than were harvested was considered “sustainable”.

We must redefine ‘sustainable’

I watched the video of the Dec. 19 Municipality of North Cowichan meeting and am greatly appreciative of the welcome and the allotment of time for public expression. We are a community of great diversity and when we come together like this, showing respect for one another and listening, I know we will create and maintain healthy social and political avenues in line with the beautiful natural setting we live in and value.

Now, how to move forward?

I didn’t hear anyone say they wanted to see our forests managed in an unsustainable manner. So let’s start with what we have in common, the desire to manage our municipal forests in a sustainable way. To work together from this common baseline we need to understand what we mean by “sustainable”.

Thirty, 20, even 10 years ago, I believe growing more trees than were harvested was considered “sustainable”. Admittedly, there has been some greater recognition and more science applied to forestry management and I am thankful that our Forestry Advisory Team is so conscientious. Most recently as the degradation of the planet’s resources has exponentially increased and is reaching a “tipping point”, greater attention, science, and resources have been devoted to renewing what has been used and abused and the definition of “sustainable” has broadened even further.

Clear cuts are not sustainable. Scraping all leftover scraps into a pile and burning them is not sustainable. Planting a mono culture is not sustainable. Applying toxic fertilizers and pesticides is not sustainable. A tree farm is not a forest.

I want our municipal forests to be forests. Living a natural life cycle is sustainable. A canopy of tall, strong trees is sustainable. Letting what has died drop to the forest floor to decompose and create a rich nutrient base to support new growth is sustainable. An understory that provides habitat for diverse species, retains soil and moisture, and inhibits the spread of invasive species is sustainable.

When this environment is in place, there will be opportunity to selectively remove trees in a way that does no harm to the overall health of the forest system. The priority though, should be the health of the forest ecosystem over the removal of trees. This is the crux of what sustainable means now; the health of the ecosystem over the extraction of resources.

With this as our baseline, we will live in abundance of natural beauty in our backyards, spiritual health in our hearts, and mental health in our minds. This balance with nature need not mean live in depravation, just not in denial or greed.

Please extensively research the models of sustainable forest management used both locally and internationally that were put forward at the meeting.

Thank you for listening, and because of this willingness to listen, I am uplifted and more confident that we will rise to meet the challenges of our time with integrity.

Martha Lescher

Duncan

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