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When a Tree Fell in the Forest
November 9, 2013 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Redwood Saga (1946) — Once upon a time, how tiny lumberjacks with tools and muscle power fell the big ones.
posted by cenoxo (61 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, damn.

Amazing / gut-wrenching.

We sure are geniuses when it comes to destroying stuff.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 9:03 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Previously, in a similar vein.

We sure are geniuses when it comes to destroying stuff

Probably didn't seem like destruction at the time. There was so much of it, how could it ever be used up or missed?
posted by jon1270 at 9:10 AM on November 9, 2013


...and building stuff: the Carson Mansion.
posted by cenoxo at 9:12 AM on November 9, 2013


Neat to see the details of the operation, but also very sad and shortsighted.

Also scary to watch the old machinery and techniques with no OSHA regulations. You could have measured their progress in limbs lost as well as boardfeet of timber produced.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2013


Haven't done any falling, but I worked in a steam-powered sawmill in a museum setting. We were careful, but I'm sure OSHA would have had a fit. As we were only doing demonstrations, we were exempt from many rules.
posted by jgaiser at 9:28 AM on November 9, 2013


That was beautiful, of an era when the hard work was done without the guilt we started to have after the environmental movement.

Yes, it's sad to see the thousand-year-old trees, romanticized in the video itself, taken down and turned into something comparatively trite, thousands of track homes and other buildings. But consider the thousands of families that lived their lives in those homes, then and today. If you live in an old Victorian in SF, look at the exposed beams you can find in your garage or basement (if you're lucky enough to have one). There's a good chance that they're made of the same type of redwood being cut in the video.

It's nice to see how that sort work was romanticized -- it must have made the workers feel good and respected. Contrast that with today, where a college education is practically required and going into a career like lumberjack, plumber, or carpenter is frowned upon or, at best, not even considered.

Thanks for posting it!
posted by cman at 10:00 AM on November 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


yep, I totally agree that the wood was important. Some people forget that people got houses and paper out of that...but I don't forget it.

It's just too damn bad that we clear-cut 90% of those astonishing, magnificent things.

Also, I absolutely agree that there's something admirable in the work--that's largely why I said that it was amazing... I'm not sure that the environmental movement made us value hard work any less... But it certainly made us realize that cutting down trees isn't an unmixed blessing...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:07 AM on November 9, 2013


While the benefit of housing is undeniable, the wood could still have been obtained elsewhere, albeit more expensively. The difference is not between those families having a home versus not having one, but between having to save for a deposit 15 months instead of 12, say. It's a mistake to think that people in the 40's were all conservationists who had to make the agonising decision that housing was more important; conservationism was simply a much weaker force at the time.
posted by topynate at 10:12 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


it must have made the workers feel good and respected

The one big thing I learned in my time in the environmental movement was that the outside workers all loved their jobs. It didn't take me long to realize that the change we were implicitly demanding was from good, well-paying, useful, satisfying work, to what are essentially McDonalds jobs, catering to tourists, and probably not all that much better for the environment.

It didn't start out that way. Logging in the old days paid shit and killed men like war. It was the labour movement that raised it to (self-) respectability. But logging being a capitalist venture, one knew that the good jobs couldn't last. Turns out it's not the enviros that are the problem, or ecology. It's business.

the wood could still have been obtained elsewhere, albeit more expensively

Which is one of the kind of frustrating aspects of the environmental movement. When you demand that your resources come out of someone else's back yard, you're perpetuating colonialism. There is no "elsewhere."
posted by klanawa at 10:17 AM on November 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


The all-redwood 1902 house we live in came from trees like that. The funny thing is that though redwood is so pretty, the builder decided it either was too dark or wasn't smart enough, so much of the woodwork is scumbled (also known as grained) to appear to be birds-eye maple upstairs and white oak downstairs. Only the dining room has simple varnishing on the natural wood.
posted by anadem at 10:22 AM on November 9, 2013


It's interesting and historical and all, but not, to my eye, all that much different than watching hunters club harp seals.
I'm lucky enough to live near some stands of old growth, groves of ancient cedars deep in the forests that somehow dodged the axes. Standing among them is like traveling back in time and never fails to make an impression. I take my son and friends from out of town and always impress upon them that it takes a thousand years to make a thousand year old tree.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:24 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a sequoia on my street. I't s apparently the tallest or second tallest tree in the city at 200', but it was only planted in 1858. Gives you an idea how big they can ultimately get when they have ten times that long to grow.
posted by klanawa at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skywalker Ranch: the library.
posted by cenoxo at 10:35 AM on November 9, 2013


Redwood groves are truly enchanting. Some clusters tend to grow in "fairy rings," a circle of huge trees standing shoulder to shoulder, as it were, as if planted by the gods. The understory of redwood forests tends to be relatively clear of dense brush, except maybe patches of deer ferns, and the light filtered from the upper canopy, far above, often comes down in fingers, illuminating swathes of the forest floor like so many spotlights. The carcasses of redwoods are huge, beyond the easy ken of most folks. They lie for centuries, along the floor of the forest, as if not dead, but asleep--it might as well take forever for them to become disorganized enough to become compost, and even then their remains deny the soil to all but a few plants.

Their seeds require fire in order to germinate. (This tidbit merits a moment of reflection.)

Redwood is best used in fence posts, fences and decks.

My stomping grounds as a young man were the trails of the high Sierras, from Kings Canyon to the Minarets. Several groves of Sequoia and Redwood inhabit that area. One human village, south of Grants Grove, had to move its cottages because, although the grove where they were built was picturesque, the tendency of these huge trees to self-trim by dropping branches that weighed several tons was annoying to the residents upon whose homes they landed.

The lumberjack culture of the Sierras has a fascinating history. Hoist Ridge was so-named because of the monstrous hoist that was implanted on it, to drag the log sections up to the log decks. Ingenious systems of lines and pulleys, powered by steam donkeys embedded in the living rock, hauled logs weighing tons up a thousand-foot granite face. In several areas a mill was built, then a village was built around it, to convert trees into planks. Then flumes were built, a couple of them were about 50 miles long, and graded with the same precision as a railroad line, then flooded with enough water to float the smaller logs and rough-cut planks to such valley towns as Clovis, Visalia, and Modesto. Some of the daring lumberjacks would ride the lumber down the mountain on their days off, and take the day-long trip back to the lumber camp in a wagon. Flume tenders lived in line shacks along the flumes. Some of them brought their families. One of them planted an apple orchard along the Shaver Lake flume. Although his shack no longer exists, his orchard still is there. I've visited it many time.

Indeed the lumber industry is a mixed blessing. Too bad we didn't get into the habit of building all our houses out of rocks and writing on bamboo sticks. Ah well.
posted by mule98J at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is one of the kind of frustrating aspects of the environmental movement. When you demand that your resources come out of someone else's back yard, you're perpetuating colonialism. There is no "elsewhere."

Pfft. I'm glad straw is a rapidly renewable resource so that you can build as many men out of it as you want with no negative effect.

The environmental way to deal with replacing the wood provided by redwoods is indeed to "get it elsewhere" but that doesn't necessarily mean to rape another virgin forest. The other options include, but are not limited to: sustainable tree farms with more rapidly replaceable species than redwood; alternative materials (i.e. not wood); and alternative manufacturing processes that allow us to obtain more use out of one tree than previously (i.e. glu-lams, paralams, microlams, plywood, etc.). Any of those, or a combination, will be much better than going into some virgin territory and cutting it all down because its free and why not and fuck it.
posted by LionIndex at 10:43 AM on November 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Flumes and The Origins of the Log Ride.
posted by cenoxo at 10:45 AM on November 9, 2013


but that doesn't necessarily mean to rape another virgin forest.

I'm sorry, you mentioned straw? Second-growth forests are created by human beings from "virgin forest." Ironically we live in an age when, conveniently, there is so little "virgin" forest that we could preserve all of it and make a negligible dent in the economy. In 1946 there just wasn't that much of it around on the West Coast.
posted by klanawa at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2013


In 1946 there just wasn't that much of it around on the West Coast.

This is not correct. Logging started early and heavy mechanized extraction was underway before the turn of the century. The kinds of logging shown in this documentary (with railroads used to push access into remote areas) happened because forests near rivers and estuaries were already totally exploited by the 1890s, more than fifty years before this documentary was filmed. If we had wanted to shift production as much as possible to second growth forests at midcentury, there was certainly land available.

But the key decisions about how fast to cut forests, with all the assumptions about regrowth and sustained production that turned out to be totally fictional, were made very, very early. It's far more profitable to high grade old growth stands, and much less so to work second growth stands. Timber in the west was operated as a classic extractive industry, where you totally denude a landscape and then move on, rather than as a sustainable, long-term operation. Obviously the only way to extract the quantity of boardfeet shown in this graph was through rapid old growth cutting; switching to sustainable forestry in 1950 would have meant much lower production and much higher prices, as well as lower profits for timber companies.

(There were also issues around attempts to import scientific forestry on the German model, and around a lack of understanding of the role of fire in sustaining the productive old growth forests, but those were really side issues to the basic decision to treat forests like open pit coal mines where you simply extracted at maximum speed and ignored the consequences.)
posted by Dip Flash at 11:25 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In British Columbia, we learn about all this stuff in school. Here on Vancouver Island logging is still very much part of the local culture.

I think the way tree falling is presented here is somewhat anachronistic, since by 1946 chainsaws (albeit very large ones compared to what is used today) would have been used to bring down the trees.

Anyone wanting to learn more about the culture of logging very big trees should try to find books by Roderick Haig-Brown and Jack Hodgins.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mt. Haig-Brown in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island is named for Roderick and his wife, Ann, in recognition of their efforts to preserve the Park, especially the battle in the 1950s to keep Buttle Lake from being flooded.

oh wow, I camped on Buttle Lake and hiked partway up that mountain just this summer, not knowing any of that. cool.
posted by mannequito at 11:43 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not correct.

There was a lot of logged-over land, but it takes a long time for it to become exploitable again, and a lot of it is switched to uses other than forestry, such as cities and farms. Plus smaller trees or species that occur in earlier stages of succession might be uneconomical to log. I doubt there was enough of it to make a big difference, particularly given the war/price/technology/population/greed-driven increase in harvest volume up until the 50s (the 80s in BC).

If one suggests that logging old-growth is unsustainable by definition (which I believe it is), yet at the same time admits that wood is a necessary resource, it is implied that some old growth needs to be sacrificed to establish plantations, in whatever form they take, be they single species/single age tree farms, or selective plots. How much and where that occurs isn't our choice to make, anymore.
posted by klanawa at 11:53 AM on November 9, 2013


Sorry, I don't think it's nice to see the labor of destroying ancient, magnificent forests romanticized. And of course people in the 1940s knew that the result of cutting down every tree in a forest was that there would be no more forest. They just didn't give a shit. It had already happened all over America and was the reason there was a growing state and national park system. In fact, many of the pockets of redwoods that remain are named after the owners of logging companies who, after amassing fortunes by felling thousands upon thousands of acres of virgin forest, decided to donate a grove or two to a state park, which just goes to show that greenwashing is a lot older than the term. The beneficiaries of the clear-cutting were not the loggers who died felling the trees or poor families in San Francisco, they were the people who owned the forests and wanted to extract the most value from them as quickly as possible. Pointing to the tangible goods created as a by-product of maximizing the profit margins of the economic elites as justification for the rapacious destruction of the natural world is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the whole system was designed to do.
posted by unsub at 11:58 AM on November 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


mule98J: "Their seeds require fire in order to germinate. "

I believe you're mixing up Sequoia and Sequioadendron, the latter of which does require fire, but the coast redwoods being cut in this video don't.

But yes, there are certainly alternatives to cutting old-growth; it's appalling that so much is still being rampantly cut across the globe. That's just too much easy money on the hoof, it's so lucrative to just cut it and rake in the dough if you give a shit about money more than you do the environment, which is how most people feel.
posted by Red Loop at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is one of the kind of frustrating aspects of the environmental movement. When you demand that your resources come out of someone else's back yard, you're perpetuating colonialism.

This doesn't seem right to me.

We make choices all the time, collectively, and at least to some extent objectively, about which resources to use. Sometimes we choose to use resource A instead of resource B for nefarious reasons, but not always. Had we said "Hey, the redwoods are too amazing to clear-cut 90% of them...let's use fewer of them, and more of the less-awesome trees," that would not entail "colonialism," even though those trees would have to come from somewhere. If we chose another place (say, Illinois) because we undervalued the rights of the people there, then that would be reprehensible. But if we simply made the decision for the same kinds of reasons that we might choose to send a highway around the Grand Canyon instead of straight through it, then there's nothing inherently wrong with such a decision.

(I should probably confess that I think that "colonialism" is one of those trendy labels that became all the rage in Lit-Crit 20 years ago, and now gets stuck on all sorts of things, almost randomly. It's not that I think (actual) colonialism was a great thing; but I think the label gets used pretty indiscriminately and expansively, like all sorts of other not-terribly-rigorous terms from that world ("othering," "privileging," "logocentrism," etc.) So I tend to be a little skeptical about such claims...perhaps wrongly...)
posted by Fists O'Fury at 12:02 PM on November 9, 2013


When they weren't sending logs down a mountin on a water log ride, they slid them down on a path covered with grease/fat, called a 'skid row'. Because people working on the path were sometimes crushed by the giant logs, it was not a pleasant job to have. You didn't want to be on the skid road. The term skid row came to refer to any bad place, and then eventually, the bad part of town.
posted by eye of newt at 12:04 PM on November 9, 2013


Oh, if you want to see some more big tree porn, here's the site. Check out the Crannell Giant.
posted by Red Loop at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2013


you're perpetuating colonialism. There is no "elsewhere."

This is preposterous, and it's shameful to appropriate the rhetoric of anticolonialism as a justification for unjustifiable historical crimes — crimes of ecocide and exploitation which are, in fact, forms of colonialism, not opposed to it. "Elsewhere" is anyplace at all where the trees aren't irreplaceable and a thousand years old.
posted by RogerB at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2013


This doesn't seem right to me.

Maybe not, but you're dealing in abstractions. Suggest an actual, concrete place that could have served the need satisfied by the redwoods, at the time they were needed, and then think about what the people who lived there (if they weren't already logging the shit out of their own forests) would have felt about it. The only way to win the exploitation game is not to play.
posted by klanawa at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2013


This is preposterous, and it's shameful to appropriate the rhetoric of anticolonialism as a justification for unjustifiable historical crimes

It's also shameful to put a fence around language and reserve it for purposes only you feel are respectable. What do you call it when the solution to your distaste for the exploitation of a local resource is the exploitation of someone else's local resource?
posted by klanawa at 12:17 PM on November 9, 2013




A recent Geoforum article on how the concept of sustainability and Leave No Trace specifically requires us to draw a line around what we want to protect/consume as wilderness and what we are willing to exploit for production: “Contradictions at the confluence of commerce, consumption and conservation; or, an REI shopper camps in the forest, does anyone notice?”

Self-linking to my Tumblr because I excerpted from it but here's another relevant quote:
This is achieved first by removing protected areas from global circuits of capital, then by reintegrating them indirectly as sites to be innocuously consumed. Meanwhile, given the flexible and mobile nature of contemporary capitalist production (Brenner and Theodore, 2005; Harvey, 2010), manufacturing activities along these global commodity chains will persist beyond local crises by establishing new spatial fixes and shifting to new areas of resource exploitation. All the while, the sanctity (and productivity) of conservation enclosures is maintained for future generations of recreationists.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:56 PM on November 9, 2013


I've posted this before, but it seems appropriate in the discussion of the intersection of old growth and skilled outdoor work: Hired Stihl slinger.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 1:09 PM on November 9, 2013


And of course people in the 1940s knew that the result of cutting down every tree in a forest was that there would be no more forest. They just didn't give a shit.

Oh they gave a shit. They actively hated the forest in the early days around here in the PNW. It obstructed farming and represented the dark forces of nature they had to overcome to survive. See The Living by Annie Dillard.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 1:20 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, the "wood" that is used to make homes in North America comes from second-growth forests in North America. Since there are no big trees left, a lot of the joists and beams used for home construction are basically wood composites, bits and pieces of trees glued together.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:54 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cutting down trees is not the problem. Trees grow back easily without intervention and have been doing so for 370,000,000 years.

7,123,000,000 people is the problem.
posted by vapidave at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


KokuRyu: "FWIW, the "wood" that is used to make homes in North America comes from second-growth forests in North America. Since there are no big trees left, a lot of the joists and beams used for home construction are basically wood composites, bits and pieces of trees glued together."

No, there is still a good deal of old-growth that's used in new construction. Not the majority, but there's plenty, mostly coming from B.C. where they just don't seem to give a shit. Go look at the rings on shake shingles, or even go into a big-box home improvement store and look at the rings on whitewood stud; you'll usually see at least some with super-tight rings.
posted by Red Loop at 3:10 PM on November 9, 2013


And for a later, much more confusing version of the original video, look to MacMillan Bloedel.
posted by Red Loop at 3:14 PM on November 9, 2013


First portable chainsaw: Festo Chainsaw in operation - Circa 1925.
posted by cenoxo at 3:26 PM on November 9, 2013


I ask because y'all seem like a knowledgeable bunch: On a rainy day at work I found a little dictionary of logging terms from the Pacific Northwest. It was called, "Donkeys, something and Whistlepunks" or something like that. It had more extensive descriptions than just the definition of the words, and it was probably a community publishing effort by someone in WA, iirc. Anyone know the actual title of this book? I grew up on Vancouver Island, and it went farther than any other resource I've seen to explain the steam and cable-powered stage of industrial logging. Plus some of the explanations were pretty funny.
posted by sneebler at 4:23 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Humans are the worst.

I felt sorry for that first tree marked with an X. It's like, hey there, not only am I going to chop you down, but I'm going to use your corpse to facilitate the felling of all your friends. Take that!
posted by Rhomboid at 4:39 PM on November 9, 2013


@sneebler: ...a little dictionary of logging terms...

This Wiktionary entry Appendix: Glossary of lumberjack jargon mentions the 1938 book Holy Old Mackinaw: A Natural History of the American Lumberjack (that includes a Logger's Dictionary).
posted by cenoxo at 5:08 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, to put things in perspective, the current ecosystem in the PNW is something like 11-15,000 years old, which is a phenomenal thing really... all of the biodiversity of the climax rainforests of the coast developed in such a short time, which really indicates how tenacious life can be.

While we humans may not be around for much longer, the forests will be back someday.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:10 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


On a rainy day at work I found a little dictionary of logging terms from the Pacific Northwest. It was called, "Donkeys, something and Whistlepunks"

It's a comic!
posted by KokuRyu at 5:11 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


See also the searchable website Lumberjack Lingo — Definitions of Words and Terms from the Yesteryears of Logging.
posted by cenoxo at 5:16 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's hard to convey how much cultural importance logging has to Vancouver Island. We drove across the Island on a "new" road this past summer from Port Refrew to Lake Cowichan, through moonscapes and carefully preserved stands of tall trees at the bottom of the river valley. But arriving at Lake Cowichan was like stepping back in time to the BC of my childhood in the 70's, still prosperous, with its own unique and rustic character.

Lake Cowichan is a tourist town now, and the main tourist attraction is tubing down the Cowichan River while drinking until you vomit. The local logging museum preserves a different era, the era of the company town where families could earn decent wages living in a fantastic place.

Many of these sorts of communities across BC are dying or are dead. A lumber mill will close down in Quesnel next spring, as will another in Houston (victims of climate change and the ruthless mentality of the owners located in one of the Bentall towers in downtown Vancouver).
posted by KokuRyu at 5:28 PM on November 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well-known Port Alberni old-timer George McKnight wrote a book called Saw Logs on Steel Rails that tells about life in the early days of Island Logging.
posted by klanawa at 5:38 PM on November 9, 2013


The Fallen Monarch in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
posted by cenoxo at 6:28 PM on November 9, 2013


There is no "elsewhere."

No. There is. Lumber lots... where trees are grown and harvested on an individual basis rather than clear-cut wholesale. This is northern New England right now. This is where the Pacific Northwest has to go. I remember being a kid in the late '80s. visiting relatives in Washington State - clear cutting visibly ruined hundreds of square miles just driving to their house somewhere on The Sound. Leaving a few acres "buffer" between clear-cuts and the highway didn't work. Everyone still knows.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:00 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


There remains on Vancouver Island enormous pressure to log the few remaining stands of old-growth timber. Most of the falling and hauling work is now contracted out with predictable negative effects on worker safety, ecological side-effects and wages. While forestry was once a mainstay of the island economy, most of the sawmills that used to provide living-wage jobs, have been shut down in favor of shipping raw logs to Chinese and other overseas mills. They tell us that tourism and 'life-style' enterprises will make up for job losses but a minimum wage service industry job ain't the same.
Vast tracts of forest, once crown land, have fallen into private corporate hands where the new owners can do as they please, undermining the very natural attractions that are supposed to drive the tourism industry.
It may have a storied and romantic past but logging, as it is currently done here, sucks.
posted by islander at 7:09 PM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is no "elsewhere."

No. There is. Lumber lots...


If they can't supply the volume the market demands, at the right price, the demand will be met "elsewhere." If you're in the US, "elswhere" is currently Canada (we export 2x more than we consume, most of it to you). American timber companies would be delighted if Canada went to a low-volume timber lot system (as would I) but you could kiss your vistas goodbye if that happened. I wish I knew how to solve the problem, but making it someone else's problem doesn't help much.
posted by klanawa at 8:08 PM on November 9, 2013


There's a really interesting episode of the Kickass Oregon History Podcast about the Tillamook Burn of 1933. You can drive by the remnants of the burn today, though you have to look for it. They also point out that by now it would all be clear-cut to hell. They also have a couple of pictures of a "steam donkey," which was originally blamed for the start of the fire.

The tragedy of the burn at the time wasn't so much people lamenting the loss of the forest, it was the board-feet of timber that was lost. There are still forests on Oregon, but they're far diminished from what they used to be.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:33 PM on November 9, 2013


Thanks for the links! Here's one about the history of forests in other parts of the world.
posted by sneebler at 9:50 PM on November 9, 2013


The Humboldt Project is an ongoing effort to preserve collected postcards of Humboldt County, CA, history.
posted by facesonflags at 9:51 PM on November 9, 2013


We sure are geniuses when it comes to destroying stuff

Not all of us.
posted by de at 9:54 PM on November 9, 2013


I've lived where the major industry was from cutting down trees. I'll just note here that while timber is an agricultural product it is subject to economic pressures that are different from those that influence the demand for other agricultural products. From one year to the next there is a relatively even demand for food. The market for timber though largely follows the housing market. Despite the image you may hold and somewhat at odds with their own self-image the people that depend on the timber market are very strongly in favor of government support during lean times.
posted by vapidave at 10:27 PM on November 9, 2013


Expect to hear more lumberjacks yelling “timbe-rrrrr” in 2013:
Following a sharp pull back in 2010, which extended into 2011, there are clear signs that the fundamental drivers of demand for forest products are gaining strength heading into the new year.

The most visible evidence of this strength is the improvement in U.S. housing demand reflected by the steady, gradual acceleration in sales of existing homes and the concomitant increase in their prices.

According to S&P Dow Jones, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index reached 146.08 in October. That was its highest level since August 2010, up 4.3% year-over-year compared to +2.9% year-over-year in September.

According to David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee of the S&P Dow Jones Indices, “looking over this report, and considering other data on housing starts and sales, it is clear that the housing recovery is gaining strength.”
posted by cenoxo at 7:43 AM on November 10, 2013


islander: Vast tracts of forest, once crown land, have fallen into private corporate hands where the new owners can do as they please

Any idea how all this land "fell" into private hands? I'm amazed that in the 21st Century we don't have the ability to regulate this kind of activity for the future benefit of all. (I grew up on Vancouver Island - it was paradise to my untrained eye.)

This reminds me of the rural subdivision where my mom lives. Wealthy retirees from elsewhere buy the lots and the first thing they (or sometimes the real estate agents) do is cut down all the trees right down to the creek, never mind the 15M setback (not enforced). You'd think they'd leave one or two for decoration. I've heard the logs are worth ~$10K, but I don't understand why anyone would move to rural Vancouver Island to be closer to nature, and want to build on a moonscape? They could build here in Southern Alberta if they want a view.

The initial wave of buyers wanted smaller houses, and lived in the forest. Over the last 25 years, the people building 2500^2ft homes w three-car garages have denuded the area to the point where erosion and contamination from septic fields is becoming a major problem, and no one wants to do anything about it. Paradise. Don't get me started on the fish.
posted by sneebler at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2013


I've heard the logs are worth ~$10K

They would have to be enormous to be worth that much. I know Vancouver island has some very big trees, but prices like that would have to be exceptional even there. Such numbers are like urban legends, though; the more amazing they sound, the more they spread.

As to why they'd cut so much down, it's probably the standard desires to build cheaply (and it's substantially cheaper when there's room for the machinery to move around), to have some sun and a yard. People want to live near the forest but not in it, and fail to understand that by indulging that desire they participate in patterns that destroy the thing they had such affection for and the circumstance they briefly enjoyed.
posted by jon1270 at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2013


Any idea how all this land "fell" into private hands?

I live in Van Isl and BC, same as islander (hence his name) and it's pretty well documented how this happened. However, it's very BC-specific.

Ben Parfitt is a good place to start.

Here's a recent article about tree farm licenses.

More here.

An older article.

BC AG's reports.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:42 AM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


However, it's very BC-specific.

The regulatory, legal, and administrative structures in BC are completely different than in the northwest US states just across the border. But in both the timber industry found ways to collude with those structures that led to an extraordinarily extractive pattern (especially from public lands), rather than a "softer," more sustainable approach. And in both cases, the profits have largely flowed out while the long term costs remain firmly local.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:04 PM on November 10, 2013




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