Planting Karma: New Trees For The Next Generation Of Mountain Lifers

Standing motionless in a forest fire scar surrounded by blackened remains of trees that flourished here for decades, even centuries, an eerie stillness takes over. No birds chirp on this charred hillside, no insects interrupt the calm, and a sense of loss hangs in the air—it feels like a cemetery.

 

When talking about protecting the natural world, mountain legend JP Auclair once said, “I don’t think it’s about using less or doing less, i think it’s about doing more.” This kind of felt like that.

words: Feet Banks   photos: Todd Lawson

Of course, death is an inevitable part of life and the nutrients created by every forest fire facilitate new growth and diversity—this is how nature works. Small weeds are already poking through the dry crust of ash and soil as life claws its way back into the ecosystem. And we are here to give it a hand.

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The plan, hatched by Mountain Life Creative Director, Amélie Légaré, is to plant 6,100 Western Red Cedar “plugs” in an effort to offset all the paper we have used to print the past ten and a half years of Mountain Life: Coast Mountains.

 

 

“I got the idea while on a hike in Whistler,” Amélie explains. “Two guys tagged along, forestry engineers who have subcontracted for paper mills. They told me that using recycled paper is actually not the best because of all the bleach and chemicals used in the process and that virgin fibre was actually more sustainable. That made me think, we should get to the root of the problem. If we are cutting down trees, then let’s go put some back.”

 

 

And so, Amélie gathered a keen crew of magazine staff, friends and their children, and hauled us all about 60 kilometres north of Pemberton to a burnt patch of hillside overlooking the devastation from the 2010 Meager Creek landslide. Of course, planting trees on public land is easier said than done, just ordering that many plugs usually takes six months. With some luck however, and more than a little help from Trevor Cox, a friend and environmental specialist with Diamond Head Consulting, some trees and a location were procured—a fire-ravaged hillside wasn’t slated for replanting by any of the local forestry companies.

The plan, hatched by Mountain Life Creative Director, Amélie Légaré, is to plant 6,100 Western Red Cedar “plugs” in an effort to offset all the paper we have used to print the past ten and a half years of Mountain Life: Coast Mountains.

“A lot of what I do has been about documenting the loss of green space in urban areas,” says Trevor, who worked as a professional tree planter for four years and was instrumental in teaching and coordinating our inexperienced crew. “We got into this industry to help manage that loss and I feel like Mountain Life aligns with our values; the readers have a passion for outdoor spaces.”

 

 

As part of his company’s annual charity endeavours, Trevor helped purchase most of the cedar plugs for this project. Another friend, Etienne Courchesne, kicked in for the remainder through his Whistler-based construction company, Sitka Whistler Renovations.

“I used to plant trees with my dad and grandfather in Quebec,” Etienne explains, “and I wanted to do something like that with my own kids. My sons were asking about the wood we were using to build our house and that same night, Amélie was over for a barbecue and mentioned she was organizing this. So, the timing felt right.”

 

 

Etienne’s four- and six-year-olds joined us for the day of planting, along with Trevor’s two teenagers, and Mountain Life publisher, Todd Lawson’s five-year-old daughter. Having the next generation of Coast Mountain locals help plant trees that will mature in their lifetimes elevated team morale as we toiled through the steep, arid hillside with borrowed shovels and MacGyvered shopping bag tree-satchels. We neither looked good nor broke any speed records, but we made sure each of those trees went into the ground with a smile and before our trucks pulled away that evening, we shared an obvious moment of pride and accomplishment.

“It’s important to ask questions,” Trevor says. “Out here and in our urban areas as well. Are our municipalities planning to manage their green space? Rather than watch them be impacted, we need to think about the future right now.”

There will always be fires, disasters and mistakes, that’s the nature of the world. But it’s up to us to ensure there is also regrowth, solutions, and a continued desire to learn, teach, and get our hands dirty.

 

We’d like to thank those who attended the planting day (bottom photo, L-R) Todd Lawson, Christina Tottle, Amélie Légaré, Etienne Courchesne, Melissa Deller, Sarah Morphy, Chloe, Lucas and Trevor Cox, Asta Kovanen and Feet Banks. We’d also like to thank Veronica Woodruff and Dawn Johnson for facilitating finding a planting area as well as the staff at the RMOW and the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council for lending us tools.

 

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