The Logger and the Super Tree

Nils Lawson really used to get a big kick out of watching the timber industry commercials on television when they said, “There are more trees in America today than there have ever been!”  He would chuckle and say, “Yeah, there are more trees today, but they are all ten inches tall.”

Nils came from a family of loggers, grew up in the forest and knew its ways.  He understood the processes of nature and the important role trees play in the environment.  His father taught him to respect nature and be thankful for the miracle that life provides for all of us. He would say to Nils, “Everything in nature has a symbiotic relationship with each other.  No one thing can exist without the other.  Ants clean the forest floor, while birds eat insects that can kill the trees.  Squirrels bury many seeds but only a few trees will sprout from them.

When we go to harvest a tree, we look at every one as an individual.  We try to be selective and take only those trees that are diseased or in need of thinning.  It is all about the seed, son!  It’s important to leave groves of old trees that have survived disease and fires for hundreds of years, because they have the best seeds to produce new generations of strong trees.”

Nils would just marvel at the wisdom of his father.  He saw him as a part of the earth.  A person who would provide for the needs of nature at the same time he provided the wood products for the needs of man.  Nils’ father would often take him out in the forest on walks to explain the processes of forest regeneration.  How death and decay provided the habitat for new plants and trees to grow.  He would show Nils things like a new tree growing out of the rot of a dead tree and say,  “You see, son, there is life in death and you can see it right here in the forest.”  Then he would talk about the role that fires play in the renewal of the forest, how the Indians burned off the brush that choked the land to increase wildlife habitat, and how the forests were more open in the pioneer days and less susceptible to catastrophic fires.

Everything was going fine in the forest until a new breed of logger arrived on the scene.  They were into mass production and did not have time to select what tree they were going to harvest for Japan’s growing paper industry, so they just cut them all down.  Sometimes they would leave oaks and other deciduous trees, but most of the time they just clear cut everything in sight.

This sort of behavior really bothered Nils’ dad when he saw the creeks getting choked up with slash and debris and filled up with mud after the rains. The fish were gone, the hillsides eroded and the landscape brutalized.  “Not to worry,”  said the timber industry.  “We will replant all those areas with the new super tree that we now have growing in our nurseries.  We guarantee that these seedlings will grow faster than any tree on earth.  That way we can look at another harvest within 60 years.”

Meanwhile, the weeds and invasive plants began to take over the clear cut areas that were replanted with the super tree so fast that the seedlings were getting smothered to death.  They sprayed herbicides and that was tricky, because it could harm other life forms in the forest like humans.  They tried goats and that seemed to work well, but how do you cover millions of square miles of clear cuts with goats?

Everywhere Nils and his dad drove around the forest, they saw the devastation of man’s greed.  They tried to explain to the timber people and the forest service how important it is to save groves of old trees to preserve the best seeds for future generations.  Nils’ dad would say to them,  “You people think you have it all dialed in with your super tree.  It is nothing more than a genetic abortion that Luther Burbank wouldn’t have approved of.

What if your super tree becomes susceptible to some disease that the old growth trees are resistant to, and they die in mass numbers on all your clear cut plantations?  All you are doing is slitting your own throat and that of the public.  Your greed today is going to catch up with all of us tomorrow.  You can’t see the forest for the dang old trees!”

The Lawsons were used to the blank stares they always received from the timber industry and forest service people.  It wasn’t going to deter them though from doing the right thing, because it was another beautiful day in the great American woods.   What’s left of them anyway?

PIC00005 (Medium)


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