One of my favourite hiking destinations over the past couple years has been the Emily Trails just north east of Omemee in Ontario, Canada. I loved walking around looking up at the majestic ~200 year old trees. I make several treks through this area each year. It gives me an emotional high with each visit.
However, last year (summer of 2013) my emotions were dashed at the sight of destruction that had taken place. The City of Kawartha Lakes had decided that “thinning” of all the Red Pine was required and posted the following news item in the fall of 2012:
October 2, 2012 – The City of Kawartha Lakes will be thinning/harvesting red pine plantations in the Emily Tract in October, the Pontypool Tract in October and November, and the Somerville Tract from October until January.
These plantations are owned by the City of Kawartha Lakes and require periodic thinning for maintaining forest health. The thinning will also assist in the conversion of pine plantations to more natural mixed forests.
Some trail use could be temporarily interrupted. For safety reasons, please avoid areas where thinning/harvesting operations are active.
Ok, thinning is one thing, but destroying half the place in the process is quite another. They chopped down a Grand Musclewood tree that was reportedly about 300 years old (see the stump in the picture above). Why? Because it was in the way of the harvesting equipment getting to the Red Pine beyond – they didn’t even WANT that tree. Below is a sign that was on an adjacent tree explaining how this was the “Oldest stand” of Musclewood in the area. Not any more!
If you look through my Flickr Photo Set of this destruction, you’ll see paths cut throughout the area by harvesting equipment and other trees just tossed aside. If this wasn’t enough to bring tears to my eyes, the following was…
Each time I go to these trails, I always meet up with an elderly gentleman who has spent most of his life hiking through these trails. He’s always there with his little Jack Russell dog just sitting on a log enjoying the nature around him. He always has stories to tell about the area and he informed me of just how old some of these majestic trees are. His great grandparents likely never saw these trees as seedlings.
On my last trip there (I haven’t been back since seeing all this), he told me of the process these harvesters went through to get to their precious Pine – cutting and splitting their way through land that had never before seen machinery. They took the valuable Red Pine, and discarded anything that held no value. His voice broke and crackled as he fought back the tears. This was his playground – now violated and raped!
Who the Hell are we (humans) to dictate to Mother Nature that her forests need thinning? She’s been looking after the forests for a Hell of a lot longer than we have. Why is our species so frikkin’ arrogant to think that we know what’s best? They claim this was to “assist in the conversion of pine plantations to more natural mixed forests.” I have trekked from one end of this area to the other and let me tell you, there is NO PROBLEM with the mix of trees – there is a HUGE variety!
This was no mere “thinning operation” but rather, a quick money grab as Red Pine fetches a decent price on the market. And, as you can see from the press release above, two other “conservation areas” (whatever!!) saw the same fate.
(There is also a rumour that half the area has been sold for sub-division development, but I cannot find any information to validate that.)
I will likely return there this summer, but the scars left will dwarf the wonderment I once felt.