Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Monday August 18 at 6:45 am I pulled on my steel-toed cork boots, buttoned up my timber-cruising vest, and put a hard hat on my head. With a firm grip on my video camera I climbed up a steep embankment following two fallers headed for the timberline. Hiking through the debris of the slash-cut we followed a ribboned route, which they had cleared of many branches, by balancing along logs bucked to length. We regrouped at the edge of the old-growth forest and discussed the practicalities of my videotaping them at work.

While the 24-year old, with 5 years falling experience, cut away the huckleberry bushes and small saplings, the older faller talked with me about the reality of his industry. According to him Weyerhaeuser and TimberWest had left workers out to dry and couldn’t care less about the local communities. He blamed the downturn in forestry on the greed of those same corporations who continue to flip Tree Farm Licenses with the help of government to turn a profit.

He was outraged by land deals being made by Western Forest Products and TimberWest that are to turning timberland into real estate. His thoughts were that the land belongs to the people of this province and it should be illegal for multinational investment corporations, backed by banks, to sell it out from under the public for profit. Sounds a lot like what I’ve been writing about for years.

I was placed in a safe zone and the older faller stood behind me ready to pull me out if there was trouble. First the young faller determined the lean of the tree, then he cut out a wedge of wood with an undercut, and then he moved to the other side of the tree for the back-cut. With the help of a wedge he tipped over the 4-foot-in-diameter Western Hemlock, pulled out the chainsaw, and walked back 10 feet where he watched the tall tree crash to the ground with a thundering boom. Then he cut down 3 more trees. Two giant Sitka Spruce trees towered over us but it would take these men most of the day to clear the smaller trees in the area before tackling them. However, they did want me to videotape the Sitka being felled and asked me to return the next morning.

The rest of the day would take a novel to describe in detail. On the way down to sea level I drove past several excavators building new roads and a blasting crew preparing their drilling machine. At the log dump I watched a massive log boom of prime old-growth cedar logs being loaded onto a barge, which can hold 16,000 cubic meters of wood. Two giant towers dropped gargantuan claws into the water and pulled up massive bundles of logs while sidewinder tugs pushed more wood into their range. You’ll have to wait for the film to get the full effect.

In the afternoon I climbed into the cab of a Super Snorkel about 15 feet off the ground and watched the operator swing the massive claw out into the clear-cut and grab a log. With ease, he manipulated the levers so that long cables pulled the massive timber down the steep slope onto the road where he threw it onto a pile. A Hoe-chuck excavator crawled through the slash across the steep slope in search of logs, which he could toss down the hill to the claw of the Super Snorkel.

That evening, in the loggers’ bunk house, as I gathered signatures on release forms for my film entitled “Such Great Heights”, the men were very intrigued by my production. The Hoe-Chuck operator, sitting on his cot beside a laptop computer, copied down my website: promising to check up on me right away.

I decided that I had to leave without videotaping the giant Sitka Spruce being felled because it was no longer safe for me to be there. Today we live in a world where local residents from different walks of life may have very similar convictions about the fact that multinational corporations are destroying our world, but we are separated by the spin created by those very same corporations. Government and big business continue to pit the workingman against environmentalists, First Nations, and the general public, while they run away with the cash.

Together we need to create the future for our communities, island, province, country, and planet. We can’t leave it up to greed. We must unite to demand an end to corporate control of our forests. I have left the people and places in this article anonymous out of respect for the men who showed me their work, up close and personal. To them I am grateful. Let us dispel the myths.

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