Friday, December 09, 2005


I remember the silence of the winter’s night, the gentle sounds made by the trees swaying in the breeze, the distant thunder of Englishman River Falls, and the occasional hoot of an owl. Today those sounds are overwhelmed by industrial noise. I can hear the sharp whirr of the feller bunch cutter as the blade rips through the trunk of a tree followed by the crash of the tree as it is thrown to the ground. This is repeated every thirty to forty seconds, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The din of the Errington Cedar Mill’s debarker, chippers, loaders, and saws add a cacophony of noises that grates the very soul from 6 am until late into the night, sometimes 7 days a week. Many times I have heard the metallic crash of chip bins being loaded by beeping loaders at 1 am. Wheaton Industrial Saw joins in with the shrill grinding sound of metal that drones endlessly on in a robotic rhythm that is as repetitious as a sewing machine. All of this heavy industry is going on in a ‘Rural Residential’ zone as designated by the Regional District of Nanaimo.

I was drawn by the noise of industrial logging to cross the Englishman River in hip waders, where Morrison Creek flows into the river. The rushing water drowned out all other noise as I braced myself against the forces of nature and moved my feet slowly between the round stones on the riverbed.

I walked downstream along the bank to the place where the South Englishman river brings water from the Mt. Moriarty watershed to join the water flowing from the Mt. Arrowsmith watershed. At times the ‘riparian zone’ along the top of the River bank consisted of only a single tree. A road had been bulldozed along the top of the river’s bank and at times only 30 feet separated the mud of the logging road from the flowing water. Ditches had been dug into the river bank to drain the roadbed directly into the Englishman River. These ditches will encourage silt, mud, machine oils, and debris being flushed into the river with the heavy rains of Spring.

Along the banks of the South Englishman RIver fisheries signs are posted on several alder trees stating: “Fish Habitat” and “Salmon Enhancement Program.” On the north shore of the Englishman River a well established channel system enters the main river just downstream from the logging road and clear-cut. Millions of salmon fry are release into the wild each year while hundreds of thousands return as spawning adults. Englishman River is still the second most endangered River in BC.

A yarder was pulling logs out of the clear-cut as I walked along the river and in the next section I could hear the sounds of a feller buncher. Mechanical progress has made it so that a single worker can fell many acres of trees per day while another worker can yard the same to the road edge. A couple of truckers and the job is done. An entire forest in exchange for only a minimal number of jobs.

I noticed several old growth veteran trees, likely left behind by the first loggers in the 1950’s for a variety of reasons, they provided the area with seeds for an entire generation of trees. This was standard practice in those days and as a result massive Douglas Fir trees still grow sporadically around the entire region.

Then I heard a chainsaw at the base of a group of five veteran trees which towered to a height of over 250 feet. Each veteran was easily over 6 feet across at the butt. For more than five minutes the roar of the chainsaw continued as smoke billowed from the base of the tree. Then, slowly, the giant began to tilt over, gained speed and made a thunderous crash against the floor of the clear-cut. This process was repeated until only three trees stood in the entire clear-cut spread out over 80 acres. (Crown land) portion of TFL 44."

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