Lachlan Labere’s “In Plain View” essay (Obs./Market News, Apr. 14) on high-elevation logging and soil-erosion risk in the Shuswap Watershed and, in particular, above Mara Lake, is to be commended as excellent investigative reporting.
The ecology of soils, tree-cover and precipitation at high elevations, insofar as risk of erosion damage and stream ‘blow-outs’ is concerned, is pretty straightforward. It takes no great flight of imagination to realize that live trees – and their roots – are powerful soil water-retainers. When trees are removed at high elevations, and especially on steep slopes, the tree-roots remaining below the stumps have a variable life-span, during which time their viability continues to contribute to soil water-retention. After about 10 years, depending on the site, the roots die, and soil water-retention may be significantly reduced, leading to greatly-increased risks of erosion – including possible sudden, rapid erosion.
Consequently, Lachlan Labere’s reference to the quote by philosopher and poet George Santayana is a beautifully appropriate quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
So, it’s clear that the risk of erosion – often sudden erosion – due to high-elevation logging is avoidable.
Only short-sightedness, based not on the function of ecological systems, but rather, on economic gain, can account for the chronic, risk to Shuswap watersheds, including possible risk to the human habitation in the valleys below.
Eventually, disregarding the realities of natural ecological systems will ultimately compromise the existence of economic activity itself.
It’s hardly surprising that there can be no sustainable economy without a healthy ecology.