Rebuilding Bill Davis’ Legacy

December 2, 2021   ·   0 Comments

The nineteenth century saw many resource-management policies changed.   The most extreme Canadian example is in southern Ontario.  E.J. Zavitz pioneered the rehabilitation of desert lands of the Oak Ridges Moraine changing the region’s productivity to its present level of prosperity.  In the 1950s conservation measures were initiated resulting in extensive reforestation/regeneration efforts across the province.   Nine tree nurseries supported the annual planting of over 35 million seedlings throughout Premier Bill Davis years with nature ensuring productivity of forest ecosystems.   Such legislation was basic to establishment of over 300,000 acres of municipally controlled lands across southern Ontario, forested ecosystems which guaranteed productivity and enhanced provincial prosperity.

The century also experienced the licensing of northern crown lands by forest industry developing pulp mills and communities to provide labour.   Initially harvesting of wood was a manual operation but eventually changed to greater reliance on mechanization.  From an ecological perspective the cutting of merchantable trees changed to clearing of all vegetation                                                                                                                                                               by heavy equipment exposing sites to extreme weather conditions.  Conservation efforts were initiated to re-establish forests on areas cleared due to fire and harvesting.

The legacy of early success stories came to an abrupt stop in the nineties with the provincial government’s decision to privatize responsibility for rehabilitation of resource lands.  The new policy decisions largely eliminated municipal authority to enforce ecological regulations governing management of resources.  The provincial government is now free to allow development companies to override local rules for managing development.

A major decision to evaluate the forest base through Forest Resource Inventory was taken in mid nineteenth century to evaluate the potential forest base for supplying raw materials for industry.   The role of resource management has changed from producing  raw materials for profit to the maintenance of forest cover to absorb atmospheric carbon provided by standing trees.  Through photosynthesis forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere storing it in the form of tree trunks.   Forest ecosystems store as much carbon as the trees themselves protecting the surface from evaporation.  Organic content in the soil maintains moisture content while root systems conduct water into aquifers to be released throughout the year to wetlands, streams, rivers and lakes.

A significant development, community forestry, has illustrated change in resource management from profit for industry to ecosystem management focusing on benefit for community development.  Menomee in northern Wisconsin illustrated a different approach to forest management.  A 10 township area allocated to the community by congress was selectively harvested by the community over a 200 year period.  The original stand inventory was cut over twice in this period with the present cover having a greater wood volume than was originally evaluated.  Forests in other parts of the world have illustrated similar results to this form of stewardship.

Community resource management exemplifies aboriginal philosophy.  In an article by Rev. Stan McKay (Ecotheology, David Hallman edit. 1994) the view of those living close to the land was illustrated.  Animals, trees and rocks are considered to embody the souls of ancestors hence representing aspects of family.  Aboriginal perception of life relates to the air we breathe, the food we eat and water to drink.  Money can’t provide any of these directly.  Mankind’s needs are for a balance between our habitat, economy and society.  

 The bottom line is mankind’s dependence on plants.  Photosynthesis is basic for all life.  Land, oceans and the atmosphere are essential elements for plant development to provide food, water and air for over seven billion people living on the habitable 30 % portion of the earth’s surface.   Canadians form a small proportion of the world’s population but represent a huge part of the global problem, living in an area contributing a high proportion of the world’s warming problem.  The Boreal Forest encompasses many melting glaciers and Canada is home to receding arctic ice fields.  Production of oil from the tar sands of Alberta has decimated vast areas of forest cover.

Individuals of past generations have illustrated the importance of the natural world and mankind’s responsibility to maintain viability of the planet. The legacy they built has been badly abused with global warming being a major result.  The rebuilding of Bill Davis’ legacy requires much greater resource stewardship than is being conducted today.

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