Monday, November 3, 2008

Common forests: rediscovering a good idea

An article in Northern Woodlands Magazine entitled, A Forest for Every Town, talks about the Vermont Town Forest Program, which aims to ensure common forestlands for municipalities in Vermont. The program's idea has grown, in part, out of movements, such as the slow food movement, that strive to use local products. It sounds like the program is quite successful so far. From the article:

Hinesburg’s forests exemplify town forest potential. They have recreation: world-class mountain biking trails, along with skiing, hiking, and horseback riding. They also serve as outdoor classrooms, both for local teachers and for the University of Vermont, whose students have conducted dozens of projects there.

And the older forest also has active forest management: one recent harvest took out white ash, which was then milled and kiln-dried locally and installed to replace the floor of the Hinesburg Town Hall, which had been sanded so many times that the tongue of each tongue-and-groove board was exposed. All this at a total cost of $2.48 per square foot, about what you’d pay commercially.

The great thing is, Hinesburg is only one of many Vermont communities with town forests. Some towns have had forests for years, while others are just now acquiring them – a task made easier by the assistance provided by the Vermont Town Forest Project and the federal Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, which will provide 50-50 matching grants for towns to acquire town forests.

It's encouraging to see support for this project at local, state, and even federal levels. This kind of institutional networking is woefully lacking in Japan, making it hard to institute programs like this. It's a shame, because there is a lot of forestland out there that could be put to good use by local communities; and there are local communities that are struggling to survive. Seems a perfect match.

Otaki has about 2,600 hectares of common forest, which, ecologically speaking, is some of the best in the area with a diversity of both broadleaf and pine varities (there are, however, some large tracts of karamatsu, which is not uncommon in Nagano). Residents of Otaki struggle, however, with the management of these forests and so many of them are becoming overgrown to the point of being a nuisance.

There's a need in Japanese society for greater recognition of the value these forestlands have and for more support to maintain forest communities. A "forest for every town" is a wonderful ideal to shoot for.


Carmelo Cannarella said...

This is a good idea and a positive example to imitate.

KenElwood said...

Excellent Idea. It just might:

A.create (better lifeway) in the communities
B.promote entrepreneurship
C.increase the value of forestry work
D.encourage young people to stay in the region
E.ensure fairer distribution of the profits generated by the development of various forest resources.

Ever read Alan Booth's 'Looking for the Lost'? Quoting him from p.79:

"The wholesale exodus from the rural areas to the industrial cities — the most damaging and intractable of the social upheavals that affluence, or the search for it, continues to wreck Japan — has meant that countrymen looking for work do not nowadays go into the hills where they once went, to collect mushrooms or burn charcoal, and so they do not need the steep, staright tracks. Instead they pile their families into trains and buses and go to Tokyo or Osaka or their environs, where about forty percent of nation`s working people now cram themselves into tiny two or three-room apartments that will never belong to them because the cost of the land would plunge them into debt for two generations, and maintain, for the sake of government surveys about `lifestysle,` that they are `middle-class."

And Wendell Berry:

"As local community decays along with local economy, a vast amnesia settles over the countryside. As the exposed and disregarded soil departs with the rains, so local knowledge and local memory move away to the cities, or are forgotten under the influence of homogenized salestalk, entertainment, and education. This loss of local knowledge and local memory – that is, of local culture – has been ignored, or written off as one of the cheaper “prices of progress”, or made the business of folklorists."


Taintus said...

Thanks for the comment Ken.
I'm not familiar with Booth's book, so I'll check it out.
A wonderful Berry quote as well.