Me replanting trees on a slash burned  British Columbia landscape 1973

Me replanting trees on a slash burned British Columbia landscape 1973

Planting trees, I mean thousands and thousands and thousands of trees, is something few have done. For me my years of planting trees on rough terrain as seen in the photo led to bad knees, OK maybe also bad hair.

Never-the-less more years, a lifetime and counting, of working as a practical plant ecologist, prescribing the right plants to be planted on all manner of disturbed Earthscapes has been the largest part of my life.

The forests of Haida Gwaii and indeed the coastal forests on the west coast of North America are an integral part of the salmon ecosystem. Giant cedars, spruce and other species protect and keep waterways clean, clear, and protected. As the salmon come to streams, rivers and lakes to spawn and lay their eggs, those waters that are most nurtured and nourished by trees are the places the salmon like best to bring new life to this world. There in the shade and care of the forests the young salmon hatch and grow before they return to ocean pastures.

Spawned out dead salmon become forest fish fertilizer

Spawned out dead salmon become fish fertilizer for trees

The nutrients from the dead bodies of their salmon parents in turn nourishes the forest. Salmon know that to receive from Nature they must give back to Nature.  In the same way as we are becoming stewards of our ocean pastures we are also taking on the role of stewards of our forests. We replenish, restore, and work to sustain both seas and trees.

For many years I’ve engaged in research and development of practical new forestry practices and business development of programs that will preserve, enhance, restore, and conserve our Haida Gwaii forests beginning with those forests that are most directly associated with our waterways and salmon. Forests that line the banks of waterways are known as riparian forests and they are synonymous closely with healthy waters. These riparian forests are the most productive of all our forest lands. This year, 2012, is a momentous year for us as in the fall after many years of work and struggle we begin our first forest restoration projects.

Our work always begins with professional forest metrics surveys that provide us with the detailed description and characteristics and an understanding of the lands we will work with. From this we prepare comprehensive and site specific prescriptions on how we will intervene sustainably to manage those lands and forests. Then comes the boots on the ground labour where crews from our village and other island communities using hand tools begin the restoration silviculture work.

Over time we expect to replenish and restore tens of thousands of hectares of forest which will with our help more quickly take on the characteristics of old growth forests than if left to the unpredictable course of nature alone.

In the spring of 2013 I will be back in my cruiser vest and rubber cork boots and will be once again make a forest “house call” to a forest in need. Then with my friends from the village of Old Massett we will do our best on behalf of those trees and the life that depends on them. This time thanks to a man who has logged more forests than I care to imagine, he’s decided to join me and has given his privately owned forest back to nature through our Haida Ecological Land Trust Society.

This years project is not so large a forest, perhaps a hundred thousand stems, it is a very special forest as it straddles and shades a wonderful fork in a river that runs through it, full of fish. If I am lucky while there in the forest measuring trees and digging soil pits I’ll find time to catch one or two with my fly rod for a fine dinner around the camp fire.

I’ve been giving back to forests in the Americas and Europe for more than 40 years. Each time I go back into the forests they give back to me.