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Weapons of moss destruction

August 5, 2004

Off the Frye Road, near St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada.

Pop Quiz: Which machine in the photo above causes the most destruction to plants and wildlife?

"Is this a trick question?", you may be thinking. If you said the tree harvester on the left, you could be right. But think about it a little more.

Just a couple of weeks before this photo was taken, the area was an old-growth pine woodlot not far from my summer cottage, with a cool needle-covered trail and a moss-carpeted forest floor. If you stopped deep in the woods, you heard only the sound of the wind in the pines. So imagine my distress when the well-disguised trailhead was suddenly bulldozed wide and machinery churned away for three weeks, twelve hours per day. When last visited, most of the trees had been hauled off, perhaps to become kitchen cupboards or window frames. With any justice, they'll be reincarnated to use in bike shops.

But coming along this woodlot reminds me that we mountainbikers are not completely innocent.

Now before you start ranting at me, "How can you compare what a huge tree harvester does compared to a little bike?", just calm down. I don't think there is a comparison - at least in scale. My point is, no matter what we do in our travels through time, we have to be aware of the footprints we leave.

It's hard to worry about skidding your bike tires on a mossy trail when you see what just one pass of a tree skidder does in the woods. How many decades of riding by thousands of riders does it take to add up to the three weeks of tree harvesting down the road? And does that give me the license to cut a few young trees growing in the trail, or move that pointy rock that has bugged me for years? I'm sorry to say that it certainly makes me feel less guilty about it.

The loss of yet another serene trail in this area has made me keenly aware of the footprint we all leave on this earth.

Yes, we leave our marks when we travel through the woods. We scar the moss and aid soil erosion, we spook the deer and scare the birds. We even squash a few bugs.

But we also leave our marks when we have someone else travel through the woods to get the materials we want and use every day. I am reminded that my coffee table did not grow in my living room.

Perhaps my ancestors huddled in caves, not worrying about coffee tables. Perhaps someday my descendents will again have to find those caves as we move towards extinction. I guess the real question is, how soon will that be, and am I speeding up the process?

contributed by:
Rick MacMillan
August 5, 2004

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