Opposing Clear Cutting Bylaw Proposal

his is a long one, folks. There is currently a proposal being considered by our local municipal council, to introduce bylaws that would immediately and permanently prevent landowners from cutting trees. The following is the what I've submitted to our council members ...

Please consider the following "fairy tale" when making your decision on approving OR NOT, the moratorium on woodlot clear cutting. These are my own words, and is likely too wordy but brings into focus many of the issues around the misunderstandings the farming vs non-farming communities.

I am a farmer, grew up north of XXXX, educated in the big cities, worked in the big cities, moved back home and invested in and worked at our own family farm (still in the former township of XXXX) since the early 80's. I also work off-farm full time in XXXX - it's a busy life! Here is my story ....

"Long ago (or last week), and not far away, there was a little girl who lived in a little city, surrounded by lots of productive farmland.

This little girl loves playing in the park, wandering the lovely treed pathways. She saw the city growing and saw that as a good thing - lots of new places to shop in big box stores, and big new houses. She didn't notice that the growing city was gobbling up the farmland and the trees she loved so much.

Her family loved the big box stores so much they never thought a moment to shop at the local Farmer's Market for fruit, vegetables, home baking and flowers; or to their local butcher shop for local meat; or from their local carpenter who lovingly creates furniture and cabinetry from carefully selected trees from well-managed woodlots.

The little girl was confused - she didn't know about all the good things that grow right here where she lives. She's been hearing rumours of things like beef and pork for her fork, chicken and turkey for Sunday family dinners, eggs for her breakfast sandwiches, milk for her cereal, corn for ethanol for their car, soybeans and wheat, fruit, vegetables, wine, even flowers, all grown within a stone's throw. Her cousins, still on the family farm, wonder why the girl's family is so far removed from their food that they think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

When the cousins talked to her about all they do on the farm, she wondered, 'If the farmers can manage all this local bounty, why can't they manage their trees?' Surely they can't know how to manage their trees because some really important people have decided that these successful entrepreneurs called farmers, need to have new laws written to tell them how to protect their woodlots.

The little girl was sad because she was hearing that she might not be able to breathe if this law doesn't get written. And she wouldn't be able to enjoy gazing upon these lovely trees as she drives by, if this law doesn't happen.

Sadly, the little girl's parents were diagnosed with a wicked variation of the dreaded 'NIMBY' syndrome. This was a cruel, twisted version where victims come to believe that only they know what is good for everyone, that they were entitled to trample over other's rights. The grown-ups infected with this syndrome are so healthy and wealthy and wise, they had way too much time to find 'problems' where none existed.

Luckily, the wise leaders were able to understand the underlying festering, see past the hyperbole and recommended a progressive treatment - to reward local farmers, stewards of their land, who were actually doing a great job ensuring that their farms, including their woodlots, were empowered to thrive and benefit the entire community.

Further, the leaders decided that they could invest in planting and maintain green areas within the cities, with lots of trees, flowers, shrubbery and greenery for all of the children and grownups to cherish, nurture and enjoy. They had planting parties with schools, girl & boy scouts, 4H groups, hockey teams and ringette teams, seniors' groups and JK's. Everyone got their hands dirty and loved it! They had so much fun they decided to commit to keeping the green areas green by volunteering to weed and trim all year long. Everyone was getting more fresh air, moving more, and feeling healthier!

The farmers were happy that their properties retained their value, ensuring they could continue to successfully grow the grain, fruit, vegetables, flowers and grapes to feed and fuel the community.

And they all lived happily ever after!"

The morals of the story:
- the hypocrisy of city growth eating up valuable and productive farmland being AOK while insisting that farmers should not be able to clear land to feed the city folk
- the absolute audacity of people who believe they somehow have the right to dictate how privately owned woodlots are managed - if they want to manage them, why don't they step up, bring their money to the table and invest themselves
- any proposal that bans landowners from benefiting from their property should include a clause to compensate the landowners for the loss of the use of the land - at fair market value for cleared land or competitive land rental rates for crop production?
- the fastest route to clear cutting is to threaten the landowners
- corn canopy is more efficient at scrubbing the air than trees - this article talks about the ability of the corn to sequester carbon: http://www.ncga.com/news-and-resources/news-stories/article/2013/01/study-provides-important-insight-into-true-environmental-benefits-of-ethanol or the original study: http://www.ncga.com/upload/files/documents/pdf/Carbon%20Sequestration%20over%2010%20years.pdf

- expropriation without compensation is THEFT (quote from a local prominent farmer)
- if the do-gooders insist that the woodlots cannot be touched, rather than stealing the land from the landowners, they can step up, slap their money down and buy the land themselves.  Seriously, they think that they somehow deserve to be able to drive by the woodlots to gaze lovingly at the greenery.  
- the same municipality that wants to enact this bylaw, has parts of the city where they BAN planting trees - only shrubs are allowed
- line fences are included in the definition of 'woodlot' - who in their right mind would even consider planting a nice new windbreak knowing that they can never cut those trees when they are over-mature and the roots have overwhelmed the tile drains.

Today's local weekly newspaper has a few articles on the issue - including the entire bylaw - excellent idea - let's deal with the facts!  And a long, rambling diatribe full of inaccuracies and untruths about foreign investors and farm practices.  What a waste of 4 minutes (reading the article) that I'll never get back.

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