Lentement Mais Sûrement
Transporter des arbres avec des chevaux, cest très lent. Cest pour ça
quon a tous lidée que cest une activité du passé. Mais, puisque ça
respecte plus lenvironnement, ce sera peut-être une méthode pour lavenir.
Puisque les forêts ne sont pas illimitées, et si on veut continuer à se servir du
bois, on doit commencer à faire quelque chose. Lavantage avec le transport du bois
par cheval, cest que ça ne détruit pas les forêts, comme les grosses machines de
Une grande partie du bois au Nouveau-Brunswick appartient au secteur privé. Les
propriétaires veulent, pour la plupart, conserver le bois de la province. Alors, pour
eux, lexploitation de la forêt avec des chevaux, cest une bonne idée.
Maintenant, lutilisation des chevaux pour la coupe du bois, ce nest
quune idée. Mais, comme la ressource diminue à léchelle mondiale, on verra
peut-être plus de chevaux dans nos forêts !
"Horse logging is slow; very slow." Horse logger Peter deGraaf of Millstream,
New Brunswick told visitors to his woodlot that his crew moved 2 cords of wood on a good
day. "They had just visited skidder operations," he said, "and they
wondered how we made a living."
It's this production level that suggests horse logging is from the past, back in the
days when poor farmers logged at the camps in the winter to get by.
But horse logging may become the system of the future, alongside skilled woodcutters
who have been trained to carefully select certain trees for harvest. The two, the horse
and skilled cutter, would make a most ecologically gentle team. It's a necessary team
because, in Canada, we are discovering the limits of the 'infinite' forests.
Bob, Archie Nadons partner in the woods
(photo: Archie Nadon)
I met a British forest worker/exchange student in northern Ontario who could not
understand the mindset that "just a little farther on was not the other side of the
woods, but more woods, and even more woods after that." The other phenomenon that he
could not grasp was that all the forests he had seen were second growth. We had already
levelled it at least once.
Now we can see the other side of the woods. We know what chainsaws, big
equipment and relentless spirit can do to even the largest ecosystems. The operative word
is 'relentless' because, in the past, a lot of woods have been annihilated using horses.
But horses have long been left behind as too inefficient for logging crews who must keep
up to the demands of an ever more wasteful and voracious market.
Many small woodlot owners' interest is piqued when one offers to log their ground with
a horse. A horse logging team is slower, less able to devastate in a short time. They need
smaller roads, can pick their way through stands for more careful harvesting. They are
reminiscent of a time when we believed our resources were infinite and could be harvested
without thought. Those times are gone, of course, but a new vision of plenty is possible;
one based on thought, education and working carefully.
Small private woodlots represent a large portion of New Brunswick's woodland. So,
there's power here, power for trends to take hold. No woodlot owner I have spoken to is
interested in massive cutting. The theme of conservation at the popular, rural level is
ubiquitous. And harvesting with a horse could, I believe, become the favoured method. It
is at least on par with small equipment, because few woods workers would choose to
"chase a skidder" if they could make a living otherwise.
There is a future in it, this horse logging. At this point, the industry and markets do
not value the horse logger enough to encourage the trade. Those that do it keep doing it
because they love horses, they don't like noise, and they prefer a more subtle process.
They believe it's part of a new attitude toward resources, that it's a living system we're
working within and what better way to work it than with a living yarding system. The only
catch is that one cannot be too materialistic in the business because pay scales have
evolved around the skidder.
Will any of us live to see the woods filled with horses again? Maybe not. One thing is
certain though. If this happens, the community will become more involved in the
woodlot-to-building-project process, and more thought than material will go into new
construction including reusing valuable materials.
Perhaps I have a case of over-heated imagination because my son and I have only been
horse logging for a short time. Recently we drove down the United States eastern seaboard
and saw the unrelenting and massive consumption. It shocked me out of my sleepy New
Brunswick complacency into an ominous and definite sense of, "This system has got to
be on the verge of giving out."
Trying to imagine what it takes to feed that monster is more than I can or want to do.
Peter DeGraaf says, "Deciding to work with a horse creates its own limit." If
more of us chose to work with horses, maybe we'd fall way behind the monster's appetite.
Maybe it might even starve.
Now that would be an interesting scenario, and a promising future.