The largest clear-cut in the world

British Columbia has the unenviable distinction of housing the largest clear-cut in the world — a 300-plus-square-kilometre block of forest land located in the Bowron River Valley, approximately 125 kilometres east of Prince George.  This area — dubbed the “Bowron Cut” — was harvested in the early- and mid-1980s in reaction to a spruce bark beetle epidemic that blanketed the region in the late 1970s.  Reasons aside, the cut is big.  So big that when it was fresh, it was visible from space.

In fact, cutting 300 square kilometres of forest is like razing an area equal to the footprint of any of the following:

  • the city of Prince George, B.C.
  • the city of Surrey, B.C.
  • Arches National Park in southeastern Utah
  • Great Basin National Park in east-central Nevada
  • one third the area of Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan
  • two times the area of Bruce Peninsula National park in southern Ontario
  • the entire Republic of the Maldives

I wonder how logging practices — and public perceptions — have changed since the days of the Bowron Cut?  The B.C. Interior is in the final stages of a decade-long mountain pine beetle infestation.  Over 180,000 square kilometres of forests and an estimated 710 million cubic metres of pine trees have been infected to date, according to a report by Wood Resource Quarterly, as published in The Working Forest newspaper on July 16, 2012.

The beetle infestation resulted in significant and widespread logging in the B.C. Interior, both to remove infected stands and as a control measure.  Surely large tracts of forest land were cut during the epidemic, but I haven’t heard so much about the scars on the land as about the methods of re-purposing beetle-damaged wood in commercially viable ways — from decorative woodworking to construction of Vancouver 2010 Olympics facilities to “Beetlecrete” (a building material made from Portland cement and beetle wood chips).

Have logging practices changed?  Have marketing tactics improved?  Or are people in B.C. just more accustomed to seeing clear-cuts these days?

To quote Charlotte Gill in her book Eating Dirt:  Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe:

In British Columbia we live among clear-cuts like people of the tropics live in the sugarcane.  When we fly over our province, we see shaved slopes.  When we drive, slash and stumps are a highway blur through our windshields.  Cut blocks they are called in the logging trade, like something you could snip at with scissors.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: