Hew and Cry

Photo credit: Youth Leadership in Sustainability


PART 1. The Forest

As a youthful 20-something, before he died in Peterborough’s Anson House, my grandfather took pike pole in hand and busted up log jams on the Ottawa River. Then, Canada was a country of boundless forests, a source of infinite timber. It is unlikely that my grandfather would have survived to his full 103 years as a log driver. Instead, he chose the rather tame world of banking.

Logging is still dangerous today. I met a one-eared man who missed death by an inch when a logging chain busted and whiplashed his ear off. Logging is an old and honourable industry. Humanity would have gone extinct long ago without wood. But the implications of how we obtain that wood has changed drastically in the years since we’ve learned the value of forests in maintaining a liveable planet.

Not far from our place on Catchacoma Lake north of Peterborough, a logging road scars a slash-trashed landscape. Four years it was a pristine natural cathedral of old growth Eastern Hemlock forest.Together with almost one million other more hectares, this is the hunting grounds of the Bancroft Minden Forestry Company. For hikers, hunters and educators, it is becoming a landscape of slash and timber cast-offs akin to an Eco dump; a semi-nude landscape littered with logging leaving’s that obstruct, distract and jeopardize.

The BMFC is a multi-stakeholder logging conglomerate with harvesting rights that include what has become known as the Catchacoma Forest.

But those who know the profound value of this forest to our times revved up their action.

Dr. Peter Quinby of Ancient Forest Exploration & Research (AFER) examined forest resource inventory maps in 2019 did the significance of the Catchacoma Forest become clear. Dr. Quinby put boots on the ground to study the intricacies of old-growth forest ecology in this special forest. AFER discovered that the Catchacoma Forest is the largest old growth eastern hemlock stand in Canada, perhaps the world.

Dr Quinby and his researchers irrefutably established the Forest’s vital status not just as a climate catastrophe mitigator by means of how it sequesters carbon, hosts Mother trees with their life-giving nourishing of new forest life, and is a refuge for 14 species-at-risk, including the Blanding’s Turtle, the cerulean warbler, the Algonquin wolf.

Peterborough Teacher Cam Douglas’ Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) pupils are both citizen scientists and students of forest ecology, and the Catchacoma Forest has been one of their venues of study for several years.

Dr. Quinby alerted Katie Krelove, Ontario campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, with his findings. Ms. Krelove co-wrote an op-ed in the Peterborough Examiner detailing the significance of the Catchacoma’s rare old growth hemlock ecosystem and the logging threat.

The Catchacoma Cottagers Association picked it up, and thus was born the Catchacoma Forest Stewardship Committee (CFSC). This group of concerned, professional and naturalist stakeholders has steadfastly pursued protection for the Forest ever since.

But the Bancroft Minden Forestry Company had already done one season’s logging. Hundreds of logs had already been piled twenty minutes north of Buckhorn in the company’s marshalling area half a kilometre east of the Hwy 507 access parking lot.

The above research and actions have informed the many approaches made to local and provincial politicians in hopes that their conservation commitments would be honoured by granting protection status to the Catchacoma Old Growth Hemlock Forest. [See “Under the Shadow of the Saw: Saving the Catchacoma Forest” in Opinion section of the Greenzine].

Peter Currier’s local Peterborough roots date back to the early 1800s. In his retirement years, he is privileged to be able to live, work, play, and write in the community of his ancestors.

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