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Conservation Is Cheaper Than Restoration

What’s the difference between a poor country and a rich one?

From the air, sometimes it’s obvious, as in the border between the impoverished – and almost totally deforested – Haiti, and the lush green hills of the much-wealthier Dominican Republic.

Clearly, two different management styles are at play along the border between those two countries. One has led to economic ruin, and the other to sustained prosperity.

Canada has abundant forest resources, but that’s no reason to become complacent, because once a forest is gone, it’s very costly and difficult to bring it back.

“Tree planting is really expensive,” said Shane Tornblom, a business development specialist with MAFRI.

“Also, there’s no guarantees and lots of potential for failure. It’s cheaper to help people make good decisions about how to keep bush on the land than to go back and solve problems.”


In a presentation on woodlot management held at the Forester’s Memorial Hall in Baldur, Tornblom made a case for the value of trees on the landscape, and gave an outline of the province’s Agrowoodlot program that began in 1992.

He likened the province’s woodlot foresters to “crop advisers,” who can help people to understand that there is a lot of value in healthy, well-managed tree stands.

That includes everything from high-quality, value-added lumber products such as burr oak flooring, construction timbers, and firewood that can all be exploited sustainably to create “green” microforestry jobs in local communities, to less easily calculated benefits in the form of wildlife habitat and species diversity, erosion control, flood mitigation, and carbon sequestration.

As Haitians have discovered – only too late – forests and woodlots act like shock absorbers for the landscape.

“Instead of the rain just pelting down on bare ground, you have the trees intercepting the rainfall,” he said. “As the rain drips through the canopy, into the shrub layer, and down into the grasses, you get this time delay between rain events and when it hits the ground.”

The root system in the very porous soil soaks up the water, and prevents it from causing havoc downstream by reducing the volume and the velocity of run-off, causing a delay in peak flow both in spring melt and summer.

Trees store up to 75 per cent of the sediment along stream banks, 50 per cent of the nutrients and pesticides, and 60 per cent of pathogens.

Human settlement has eliminated fire, Mother Nature’s natural management tool.


Landowners may think that just leaving the bush alone is the best course of action.

“But the problem is that by doing nothing, the trees just get older and weaker,” he said. Good forest management, which first removes the dead, dying, deformed and diseased trees, helps the stand maintain its vigour. Reducing competition between trees for water, light and nutrients, helps the valuable trees grow faster, taller, and straighter, making what was once not much more than an obstacle for machinery, a valuable resource.

What can Manitoba’s woodlot foresters do for landowners?

Well, for one, they can help people make informed decisions – and avoid costly mistakes.

In 1995, Tornblom met a farmer pressed for cash who had agreed to a “handshake” logging deal on 80 acres of burr oak. He had agreed to let a logger clear cut everything for $10 per cord.

“He didn’t know if he had 800 cords or 2,000 cords, and he didn’t know if fair market value was $10 or $50. He didn’t have a clue,” said Tornblom.

Eventually, all 80 acres were cut, including along a stretch of stream, which led to erosion problems later due to sandy soils.

“The province lost all this bush, and because the guy did a handshake deal, in the end, he didn’t even get paid.”

If he had consulted with a forester, scientific methods could have been used to accurately estimate the resource, its value, and ways of harvesting it so that it would be improved over the long term, added Tornblom.


Also, woodlot foresters can also help landowners to salvage unwanted bush, and use it within the local community to create economic opportunities, rather than just “pushing and burning.”

Near Grand Clairiere, where a tornado flattened thousands of acres of poplar bush, some 1,200 acres were salvaged as part of efforts to clean up the tangled mess and restore the area to pasture.

“We’re also trying to help these guys in the small-scale industry to increase their potential, with emphasis on milling, kiln drying and other types of value-added processing,” he said, adding that “buy local, buy green” initiatives are also included. daniel. [email protected]


Buttheproblemis thatbydoingnothing, thetreesjustget olderandweaker.”

– shane tornblom

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