"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Logging at Kelsey Bay

Did I mention there are lots of trees? Yes, well having never been in the Pacific Northwest before, I had no appreciation for the importance of the logging industry to the region, or what that industry actually entailed. Of course I understood that trees were being cut down by the zillions, buzzed into lumber, milled into toilet paper, and I've even shed tears about what is happening in the Amazon rainforests.  Being a wood consuming tree-hugger from way back, I pretty much avoid thinking about it, much like a meat eating animal lover avoids thinking about stock yards, slaughter houses and crying calves separated from their mothers.  

In our travels I have now encountered both stockyards and logging yards in reality. My attempt has been to see these things, without judgement or hysteria, for what they are and learn. I don't have to like them, but I do have to try to understand. 

Clear cutting is a common practice and it is almost always followed by replanting. The forests that are cut down are never the same. They basically become farmland, like much of the US and Canadian prairies have become farmland. I actually love farmland, the kind that grows fruits and veggies and grains. Why can't I love the farmlands that grow trees? Good question, and I have some answers, but let me tell you about logging now instead.

We stumbled upon a medium sized logging yard in Sayward on Vancouver Island, in Kelsey Bay. We got out of the car to stretch our legs and walk Kona, and wandered closer to the operations, which we found fascinating. This is just one stage in the logging to lumber process, but it was one we could actually observe easily, versus the taking down of trees or processing wood into lumber or paper products.

First the logs arrive at the yard on trucks and they are unloaded and sorted into huge piles. They are removed from the truck and moved around by these equally huge machines that I don't know the name of.  Now let me just say that this all happens at an amazing rate. We're not talking about big heavy machinery "lumbering" around like elephants.  No, this is a speedy business that moves a lot of wood very quickly. Time is money in this industry too.

At some point the logs are lifted and moved in large sorted batches over to these ramps down which they slide and splash into the water.  Sometimes they are bundled with cables before they slide into the water, and sometimes they are left in loose bundles. (The machine on the right is a cable binder.)

In the water, these zippy little tug boats wait for the loads of logs...

...then down come the logs...

... and the tugs zoom in and push the logs to their designated alleys.

The tugs tilt so crazily as they zip around that they look like carnival rides.

Once the logs are pushed out away from the loading area, men who are the modern equivalent of lumberjacks walk across the floating logs, look at them and write thing down on their clipboards. We've been told that these guys are probably buyers examing the logs for purchase or in preparation for making a bid.

Some of them are literally running over the floating logs.  Like I said, this is a quick business.

The logs wait there to be shipped off to other ports. Sometimes they are lashed together and floated short distances. Other times they are loaded on barges and transported further away.  Much of the US and Canada lumber is sold to Asia, but I read recently that there is a cap of 20% of US logs sold outside the county. Not sure that's true, or what the policy is in Canada.  Whenever logs are sold out of the country, the domestic lumber industry suffers.

Many people in this part of the world depend on the logging industry for their livelihoods. And of course, we all use wood and wood products, and this is where much of that wood comes from.  The logging industry is doing its best to make this a sustainable resource, keeping themselves in business and benefiting its employees, investors and consumers. But what about those real forests and the benefits they provide? Could this all be done differently?


  1. Rick and Lenore,

    While I can't say for sure where I heard or read of this, but at one time I found out that with the lumber companies re-seeding their forests that there are actually more forested areas now than there was 200 years ago or more.

    Now, having said all this, I'll now have to go searching for that information.

    Oh, and weaning calves off of their mothers is as natural as weaning our own children. As for stockyards, that is simply another form of retail, but with greater risks to the buyer.

    And while feedlots may get a bad rap as well, those are a needed venture to help feed a hungry world.

    Oh, and I'm really enjoying your photos and descriptions of where you are and what you do. Keep it up.

  2. You clearly know what you are doing, you've covered so many bases. Thanks!

  3. Rick and Lenore,
    I too was fascinated to watch the 'zippy' little tugs as you describe and painted a watercolor of them rounding up logs. Thanks for your thorough description and great photos.
    Mara B


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