Friday, 29 October 2010

Harvesting the Forest

I am spending a lot of my leisure time up in the forest at the moment. There are still mushrooms for the collecting. My love of mushrooming has always been accompanied by a love of being in nature. The Czechs have both of these loves – but for me there is the added attraction of novelty.

It is for these reasons I am hurt by what I see on my silvan jaunts – the wholesale destruction of tracts of my beloved Mytsky Les. These Czech forests are not natural, but the legacy of generations of foresters, who have carefully harvested and restocked the forest. Trees were cut down when their time came and not before, treecover was maintained to ensure that the forest floor did not become scrubland and suited to the flora and fungi, that also supplied the contents of their wives' store cupboards. No longer – instead I arrive at some of my favourite mushroom collecting sites to find devastation, whole areas stripped bare, unwanted branches and stumps strewn over the ground, my paths are rucked up by the monster machines used by the tree harvesters. After a year or two the open space thus created is covered by impenetrable brambles.

Why is this? The forests have survived communism only to fall foul of capitalism and privatisation. These new "tree harvesters" are interested only in short term profit, they harvest but they do not farm. The large machinery is easier and quicker. If all this wood was for domestic consumption I might be less annoyed, but I regularly nearly get run off the road by large timber lorries taking the best of the Czech forest to Germany and Austria. I am not alone in my alarm at developments. They are a regular topic of conversation with my Czech friends - one said recently that the Sumava Forest will be destroyed in ten years. Most are of the opinion that the excuse that some of the clearance is needed to fight the bark beetle is simply a ploy to justify the pillaging of the forests, indeed that the beetle scurge is a consequence of profit-driven monoculture.

The news from the UK that the British Government is proposing to sell off half our national forests fills me with horror. I have seen at first hand what that means and I urge British readers of this blog to sign the following online petition
or better still write to your mp, for details on how to do this see

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