Letter: Tree cutting

Tuesday, July 26 2016

Dear Editor, 

I don’t think I am alone in my concern about the sort of tree removal for lot building that we see at times on Gabriola. 

Before taking drastic clearing measures, people need to consider important factors such as nesting and general year-round habitat for birds and other small species, slope stability, natural drainage systems, privacy and respect for the already established homes in the neighbourhood. Property owners need also to think of the importance of trees as sources of planetary oxygen, the air we breathe, as well as important sinks for our rapidly and exponentially increasing CO2 emissions. As we watch our beloved cedar trees decline and die on this island, with their great dead red shapes everywhere, shouldn’t we be doing all we can to protect, conserve and cherish the healthy trees we have? Why do we sacrifice all the trees because we want a perfect view? 

Trees are incredibly amazing; we have taken them so much for granted. Their chlorophyll and our hemoglobin are very similar at the atomic level. We are related, deeply, more than most of us know. This is one of the reasons I believe that many of us feel a deep sadness when we see and hear a tree being killed. 

Yes of course we need to clear our lots for building, but we need to be careful and respectful as we do this. The State of Washington Department of Ecology report, “Managing Vegetation on Steep Slopes,” advises:

“Do not remove trees without cause. Many people remove many more trees than necessary during site preparation. The value of a healthy strong tree on a slope or bluff far outweighs its value as lumber or firewood.” Well-established trees on slopes and bluffs have complex and deep intertwining root systems which stabilize other adjacent trees, helping to secure the slope. After all, the trees have been there a long time and have established a little interrelated biological community. If someone removes these trees, as this Washington State study says, weakened and dying roots cause already barely stable slope to collapse. Not good for the lot owner nor for the neighbouring lots. 

As far as birds go, and the unfairness of cutting down trees during the nesting season which lasts a few months, there are registered professional biologists, such as the Nanaimo-based Streamline Environmental Consulting (250-751-9070), who have the equipment and expertise to help. Apparently most industrial and commercial projects consult such services before they destroy trees. Private landowners should as well or, at the least, speak with a certified arborist. 

We live in the remnants of a forest here, with all the creatures that call it home. This is why many of us moved here and this is why we love it. In this critical and unprecedented time of anthropogenic climate change which we have created, we need to abandon our view of ourselves as the “superior” ones, the lords and masters of creation, free to rampage and destroy because we feel we are entitled. When people clear-cut their land, scrape it bare, in this time of planetary unravelling when we need to be honoring and respecting every aspect of the natural world that sustains us, we have to take a stand and speak for the trees. I will.

~ Sheila Haniszewska