Watching the woodlot management issue unfold over the past few weeks made has had me wondering just what kind of a community we’ve become.
It’s been 15 years since we were forced into becoming the community of Chatham-Kent but it seemed like 1998 all over again listening to comments and attitudes in the slicks versus hicks debate in local media, on the street and at council.
For years the idea of government-inspired woodlot management was whispered in hushed tones in back rooms because it was feared as soon as the issue became public, rural landowners would rush to cut down every tree possible before legislation could be brought in.
Wallaceburg Coun. Sheldon Parsons appeared to have that in mind when he came forth with a plan for a six-month moratorium on clear-cutting while the matter could be studied.
If ever a match was thrown into a tinder-dry forest, that was it.
Suddenly, instead of the issue being the betterment of the environment, it became to some extremists the leading edge of an all-powerful government plot to seize control of everyone’s land.
Council bent like a sapling in the wind, confirming that the louder someone yells (regardless of what they’re yelling) the more likely council will back off. Leadership was an early casualty in the debate.
The truth is that a moratorium would have been just that, a time for council, administration and landowners to gather information and come back with something to look at and decide if anything is needed.
There’s nothing saying that woodlot management couldn’t include incentives to encourage tree planting and harvesting in a way which makes woodlots more financially attractive.
The battle (if it needed to be one) could have been fought with real information instead of rhetoric.
All council has done by throwing in the towel is given the clear-cutters six months in which to chop everything they can while the matter is studied.
Most rural landowners (especially farmers) have a special connection with the land. They don’t always express it that way, but it’s almost spiritual. They’re on the land because they love it.
A very few I’ve known are greedy SOB’s. That’s the way of the world. No profession or calling is exempt.
There are some folks who have never gotten over amalgamation. I believe these elements have seized this issue and are using it to promote their own brand of hatred against anything Chatham-based.
When that happens, people in Chatham tend to generalize and think everyone outside of what was once known as the Maple City lags a decade or two behind the times.
Neither extreme is correct and wading through the rhetoric takes energy we could be using for positive purposes.
There are solid reasons for being concerned about government interference and encroachment in our lives and property. We need to be vigilant. We don’t need to be hateful.
That air they’re talking about improving through saving tree cover?
We all breathe it.