9/09/2011

Vancouver Island's Forest Defender, Merv Wilkinson, Dead At 97

Merv Wilkinson - environmental hero
Merv Wilkinson, eco-forestry advocate and staunch defender of the forest, passed recently on Vancouver Island. Surrounded by the Wildwood, his 137 acre patch of dry coastal douglas-fir forest near Nanaimo, Wilkinson moved on to that great forest in the sky. He leaves behind a lifetime of good work, and a legacy that will affect forest practices for generations.

When he bought his property in 1938, Merv's neighbours considered him unusual for his decision not to clear cut the land, and make it 'productive'. But he knew it was productive just the way it was, and that it could continue to be productive in perpetuity if cared for respectfully with sustainability in mind.



"You don't have to destroy the forest to harvest trees" was his guiding principle, and he proved it a valid idea over 70 years of managed logging in his old growth forest. Merv became interested in eco-forestry early, learning about the Scandinavian logging practice of single tree selection. Because of that, today Merv's forest remains an intact ecosystem, and contains as much or more wood than when he started logging it 7 decades ago.
"Back when Wilkinson purchased Wildwood, it had 1.3 million board feet of standing timber and, after 70 years of selective logging, he has pulled out some 2 million board feet of lumber—with an astounding 1.6 million board feet of timber still standing. Compare that to B.C.’s traditional industrial logging methods: it took 25,000 years for Vancouver Island’s forests to grow and, according to 2004 satellite imagery, we’ve cut down 73 percent of our productive old growth in about 100 years." - Tall Timber Tales, Monday Magazine
Wilkinson's forest, Wildwood, in Nanaimo area
Wilkinson not only practiced forest preservation on his own land, he also became involved in local protests and campaigns to save Vancouver Island old growth. He joined the largest peaceful act of civil disobedience in Canadian history at the Clayoquot Sound protests in 1993. He was arrested along with his wife as they stood  in defense of the 12,000 year old primeval rainforest. 


Merv was instrumental in influencing environmentalists of the day to make an important shift from "no logging" to "no clear cut logging". He knew that we must cut trees, but also knew that modern industrial methods of clear cut, burn, and run were not the responsible way to go - big industry gets the profits, and communities are left to deal with the environmental wasteland left behind.


Another campaign that Wilkinson was involved in was for the preservation of the old growth wonder, Cathedral Grove, outside of Port Alberni. This grove of ancient Douglas-fir draws one million visitors per year from all over the globe. It contains trees over 800 years old, and 9 meters in circumference, and is now managed by the The Land Concervancy


Merv Wilkinson's life work is proof that our government is going about managing our forests in a very damaging manner. He showed us that there is an alternative to big business and clear cuts. His land is the proof. Even after the continuous selective logging of 2 million board feet of lumber, the Wildwood remains a complete forest with many large old growth trees still standing.

Merv's is an alternative that supplies us with the lumber we need without destroying the forest and everything that lives there in the process. May he, and the old style corporate clear cut forestry that he rebelled against, rest in peace.


Where is Wildwood?





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