Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Working in the Woods Today - Exhibition announcement

NOTE: this post is excerpted from a Campbell River Museum press release.

New Exhibit at the Campbell River Museum 
January 27 to April 22, 2012

"This photographic exhibition features superb images and informative text about the men and women working in BC’s coastal forest industry in the 21st century by photographer and writer Hans Peter Meyer.   The exhibition is part of a bigger project to produce a large format photo book about BC’s coastal forest industry." (For more information, visit

"Meyer says that there is an abundance of images from the 'glory days of logging,' but almost nothing has been published since the 1950s about the industry as a place where real men and women work (in remote locations, and often under dangerous conditions).
"Be sure to come and see these outstanding photos while there are here."

Museum at Campbell River
470 Island Hwy
Campbell River BC V9W 4Z9

--- end of press release excerpt ---

Thanks to the Campbell River Museum for your support of this project!

I am currently working with a team to select the images and layout of the show. Please extend an invitation to anyone who has a connection with the forest industry, to join us for the official opening (date not yet set - watch this space!) or simply to take in the show during February, March, and April 2012. The museum has an extensive historical collection of the region's forest industry.

Sponsors and Advisors to the Working in the Woods project
This exhibition, and the project I'm working on, is made possible by the generous contributions of expertise and logistical support of a number of people. To see how current sponsors and advisors are, please visit the project Sponsors and Advisors page.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Otto Schulte talks about the forest industry in Hardy Inlet, BC

Hardy Inlet is in the Rivers Inlet network of mainland fjords on BC's mid-coast region. Otto Schulte is the Interfor forest engineer over-seeing a current logging operation by Ironside Contracting of Campbell River.

Hardy Inlet is a relatively small body of water in a remote area. Otto describes what is being cut in the region, and a bit of his history with the area. I was in the Hardy Inlet operation in early August 2011, taking photographs and talking to people working in the woods. This is part of a book project about "working in the woods today," BC's coastal forest industry in the 21st century. For more information about the book, and ways that you can help build it, please visit this link.
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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mapping the project with Google Maps and Flickr.

All of my life I've been hearing about places like Chamiss Bay and Rivers Inlet, Knight Inlet, etc. These were the remote places that friends went to work in logging camps. One of the benefits of doing the Working in the Woods Today / Coastal Forest Industry Project is that I get to actually visit these places myself. With the help of Flickr (for photo sharing) and Google Maps, I can create a "mashup" of technologies that will help give others a sense of where these places are and what they look like.

Go ahead, click on a flag or a photo. See where it takes you!

(cc) / 9 August 2011
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Culturally modified trees. Ancient loggers in Hardy Inlet

A "CMT" -  culturally modified tree – in the Hardy Inlet area, near Rivers Inlet. 
"What's that?" I asked my "tour guide," pointing to a clump of standing timber in the middle of a small cut block. We were driving up from the Hardy Inlet log dump into an area currently being logged by Ironside Contracting out of Campbell River, and Otto Schulte (the younger) is driving.

Otto is a forest engineer for Interfor, the company that holds the "chart" for this part of Hardy Inlet on BC's mid-coast. I don't think of myself as an "old guy," but hanging out with young guys like Otto makes me realize there has been a passing of time since my days in the woods. That passage of time is also evident in what I'm seeing as I fly over, and drive through, parts of Vancouver Island and the Mainland coast where active logging is taking place. The monster clear-cuts of my logging youth, and even the mid-sized clear-cuts of my early 30s when I was planting,  are now greened up. The new cut blocks tend to be pretty small compared to what I'm used to. They're often also interrupted by creekside leave strips, and clumps of standing timber, large and small. Right now I'm pointing at a small clump, with some big standing cedar in it. Why was it left?

"There's a CMT in it," says Otto. "Want to take a look?" And he pulls over and begins to answer my next question as we climb through the slash on a steep hillside towards the cluster of trees surrounded by logging waste.

What's a CMT?
Forest engineers are the people who hike through the standing timber hazarding encounters with grizzlies and cougars as they lay out the cut blocks, roads, landings, falling lines, etc with map, compass, and chain. As they go through the ancient forest they may notice CMTs – culturally modified trees. That is, trees (or, as in this case, a stump) showing evidence of First Nations' forest uses pre-dating the mid-19th century, perhaps evidence that points to habitation and forest uses up to 5000 years old. Often archeologists are part of the mix when preparing a site for logging. An engineer may happen on a CMT by chance; it's the archeologists' job to go find them, record them, and flag them. Once they're identified, they're ribboned off, as this one in the picture was, and an area around them is left standing, safe from the fallers' saws.

This CMT
The Owekeeno people have been in the Rivers Inlet area for a long time, using the forest as a resource for many things: canoes, fibre, poles, etc. This stump (about 1.5 metres across at the top) was quite a way up-slope and inland. Falling trees of this size is hazardous, hard work, even using chain saws. The tree that once stood here (how many 100s of years ago is hard for me to guess) was felled using stone tools.

The first log lay just down-slope. It too would have been cut from the large tree using stone tools. It looked like it had had planks removed from one side. Most of it was still lying there. Which also boggled my mind: all the effort to cut this giant to the ground, and then to leave most of it where it fell? What was the story here?

The engineer I was with suggested that the height of the cut, with no evidence of spring boards, suggests it may have been cut in the winter with considerable snowpack around the trees. A deep snowpack may have made it easier to move large pieces of wood down to the water as well. As for why so much of the tree was left, he had no guesses.

When was it cut? 
The age of the hemlock trees growing around and out of the stump suggests a long, long time ago, as does the degree of rot in this cedar stump (for those who don't know, Western Red Cedar is known for its resistance to rot). I'm guessing it was cut close to 200 years ago.

As I stood looking at the stump and the log that had been cut from it, in the midst of large devil's club and a handful of standing forest giants, I felt considerable awe. To my mind, I was in a sacred place simply because it was one of those places on the planet, like Stonehenge or the caves at Lascaux, that say, simply: others have walked, worked, perhaps worshipped here hundreds, even 1000s of years ago.

Things have changed in what happens in the woods today. Very cool.
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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Logging Knight Inlet, July 2011

Knight Inlet on BC's coast has seen large scale industrial logging since the 1960s. A recent upturn in the market for low quality hemlock and fir in China is seeing renewed activity as loggers start to take the 50+ year old second growth on the slopes of the Klinaklini River valley.

Interfor currently manages the Klinaklini River basin, with Wahkash Contracting as the active logging operator. I was in the Knight Inlet operation in late July 2011, taking photographs and talking to people working in the woods. I recorded this short interview with Interfor forestry engineer Kirby Jacques after looking at some of the wood that's being taken out of the watershed. I know a little about (very little, relatively speaking) timber values. Most of what is being cut is not the kind of wood I would consider to be of high value. As I say in the video, it's "ugly." Yet, as Kirby relates, it's this ugly second growth that is fuelling the current upturn in the coastal forest industry. 

(You'll notice one of the "pleasures" of working in the woods – the large horse (and deer) flies that love to take chunks out of you when you're busy. Several of these beauties fly in and out of the video. At the end, one lands on the camera lens, obscuring Kirby's face. )

The coastal industry has long been a source of controversy. Logging practices were vilified in the late 20th century. There is currently much anger about exporting of raw logs. Right now, the Chinese market for "ugly" logs that are not wanted in BC are providing jobs for BC loggers. This market is also providing a "solution" to the unanticipated consequence of forest industry practices of the 20th century, what one long-timer has called the "coastal Hemlock slums."

31 July 2011
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