The fog creeping in and out of the tightly spaced Fir and Hemlock trees is ghostly – materialising out of nothing and vanishing before realising it’s gone. Bird calls and the creek and groan of the canopy are dampened, making everything sound distant. Perched atop the stump of a large ancient cedar, I can see the vastness of this second growth forest. The lack of low branches gives an airy appearance of standing inside an immense cathedral with pillars shooting skyward supporting a giant ceiling of green limbs, obscuring every ounce of light, if there was any to begin with. This connection makes me feel at home.
Originally purchased for 25 cents per acre, this area of forest was first logged in 1927 by the American company Merrill & Ring. Old growth Cedar and Douglas Fir dominated the landscape stretching endlessly in every direction. The hills surrounding Squamish are still green, but if you look closely, there are distinct lines delineating the darker natural first growth from the lighter, brighter patches of second and third growth forest. Blocks of fast–growing monoculture fir and pine are replacing the vast natural diversity of species which gives the coastal forests of BC their natural resilience and disorderly beauty.
Historically, British Columbia has placed value on land according to exploitative industrial uses and current market trends. This is a difficult attitude to change after centuries, yet with a shift in social conscience and the high distinction placed on recreation and a connection to nature by many BC residents, the value of land is beginning to be seen in a new light. Nature in its natural state is a very valuable commodity which cannot be manufactured, bought, sold, or traded.
Both forestry and mountain biking have a deeply rooted history in this area, shaping the lives and attitudes to those who call Coastal BC home. With this photo, I wanted to show the paradigm shift in how we see value in land by juxtapositioning the old and the new economic drivers. I understand that forestry is valuable and necessary, but it needs to be done differently. Front country logging is unnecessary and harmful to one of BC’s leading sectors – tourism. Clean, healthy dollars which are actually staying in the communities who are striving to protect their forests, instead of exporting profits to a corporate headquarters overseas or in far away cities.
Mountain bikers are a creative and hardworking bunch. You would be hard pressed to find another user group who would come out of a trail through a clearcut or scrappy second growth forest with a bigger smile on their face. This proves that there are ways to give worth back to land which has already been seemingly stripped of economic value, but really, it shouldn’t have to get to that point. As towns like Squamish shift their focus from resource to recreation, I hope we can see a shift in environmental policy to reflect what is actually happening here on the ground.