We will never know the true position of our forests until we accept the facts as reported by others

Dear Editor,

The letter from Janette Bulkan refers (‘Points in letter about over harvesting of timber species missed,’ SN, June 17).

It is said that greenheart grows on the slopes in brown sand areas, not only on ridges but on hills in swamp areas. If we have difficulty with the idea of a catalyst, that is fine, but we shouldn’t limit the call for more genetic research. There is a hill in the Kaburi area where every tree was defective. It would appear ‘something’ in the soil poisoned the species. The question is what, or is it genetic?

One glaring misconception is to claim that in 1956 extraction was done by grey-stick manual log hauling. This completely overlooks the various developments of extraction methods over the years, although there may have been one or two individuals who would extract using grey-stick even today.

Extraction methods were 1. grey-stick, 2.oxen, 3. stop-off, 4. steam winch, 5. motorized skid winch, 6. mobile tractor with winch or without winch, 7. bulldozer with winch, 8. skidder with winch.

By 1956 it would be fair to say that most extraction was done using the Nos 5 and 6 methods although one large company did use No 7.

The opinion that in 1956 extraction was done only by grey-stick was an assumption somewhere in the writings of Tropenbos. This was noticed as incorrect when published. There has always been a question as to which method did greater damage to the forests, the skidder or any of the previous methods before item No 6, where extraction damage is done when wide paths, (six to eight feet wide), are cut and lined with skids approximately 4 inches in diameter. This caused the destruction of many young hardwood trees to line the extraction routes. Which method would do greater damage has never been studied, and I doubt a study will ever be implemented. Vis-à-vis E C Clarke’s report the commercial trees removed from 10 acres were 94 trees; this represents 9.4 trees per acre. This is a rich yield regardless of however felled, ie, axe, cutlass or chainsaw. So his findings cannot be written off because of an assumption. But that seems to be the trend.

It would appear that the Tropenbos findings in 1999 are not accepted as again, the facts must be ignored. There is a statement that “the remaining trees are not old enough to produce a continuous flow of fresh fertile seed; and the trees are too far apart or are too difficult for the flower pollinators or seed dispersers to find.” Young people make strong children but old people tend to have a problem. Is this true and is the process reversed with plants? Tropenbos’ assumptions are exactly the opposite.

Another finding of Tropenbos is more wild life was observed in 1999 than in previous inventories done during the 20th century. Labba may be a seed disperser for some species, but anyone who knows what a greenheart seed looks like would hardly claim that an animal would eat, digest and pass it out. (Note: A greenheart seed is a little bigger than a golf ball. The writer did not say a labba would eat it).

It was made quite clear that the code of practice is something that is flexible. As regard the National Forest Policy, it is opined this is an issue that needs to be examined.

It was foisted on the National Assembly, the views of forest workers were ignored, and as our recent history will show, the National Assembly has many problems unrelated to timber utilization. Pages could be written on the defects of the National Forest Policy, who wrote it and its effects on the timber trade, but will anyone listen? Again Guyana needs a policy that will allow utilization of the forest while ensuring its sustainability.

As regards the markets for timber, any logger will find some markets. Currently there is a market for many lesser known species, this for form boards.   This market is low cost and low quality.   It is opined that the local industry has a difficulty in supplying export value added markets because of the restrictions implemented in recent years, some of which have already been reversed. We will never know the true position of our forests until we accept the facts in the forests that have been reported by others, including Tropenbos, which it may be recalled, were found to be “surprising.”

I am not a journalist; I hold no timber concession, so it would be unlikely you would be hearing further from me. There are those who may choose to continue with sensationalism; it serves their purpose.


Yours faithfully,
John Willems

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