The art of logging for many might be described as the skillful process of cutting down and removing trees from forests for multiple purposes. But for Jonathan Holmes, former logger and current logging operations manager at Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation, logging goes beyond tree harvesting.
“Logging is not as easy as people would think it is, you know, there’s a lot behind it, a lot to it,” Holmes said.
From assessing the area and the trees to transporting all the logs to the mills, Holmes describes logging as not only a way to make a living and an opportunity to him, as a Nlaka?pamux First Nations member, to advocate for a more sustainable way of logging.
“I’m in a really good position where I can advocate and I can let Lower Nicola Indian Band know that we’re leaving retention, we’re leaving supporting trees, we’re managing water accordingly, we’re protecting (the environment),” Holmes said.
Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation (LNIBDC) is the corporate entity of the Sulu?s (Lower Nicola Indian Band) and the Nlaka?pamux First Nations. According to their website, the corporation’s goal is to “create wealth and prosperity for band members as well as the local economy businesses” while continuously protecting their land and waters according to the Nlaka?pamux values.
The concept of protecting the nature that surrounds them and also provides them what they need is deeply embedded in traditions of the Nlaka?pamux First Nations. Holmes said one of the key principles that he follows in his work is “taking only what you need and making the most use of what you’ve taken.”
“I feel better that I’m able to come out and give an offering to let mother nature know that, hey, we are out here, we are harvesting and taking resources and wood,” he said, “In return, I want to try and protect what I can because she’s given up some, so we have to give up some too.”
Upon arrival at the logging site, accompanied by his four-legged best friend Toby and some coffee, Holmes assessed carefully the job being done by his team.
As he sat down and watched one of his operators working, he said his past experience as a logger helps him a lot to better understand what his team needs to improve from time to time.
“I can be level ground when I communicate with people and it helps,” Holmes said. “He’s a good operator, but it’s my job to critique and support him and be like, actually, maybe set up the woods a little bit differently because the guy loading is having a tough time, you know.”
Holmes also takes his commitment to responsible logging beyond just protecting the lands, waterways and wildlife that are found at the locations they cut down trees. At the logging site they are currently working, Holmes and the loggers are always aware and communicating about the amount of area being explored.
As the trees that are being cut down create a clearing, Holmes and his team plant tree seeds and grass seeds to revitalize the area and allow the forest to recover as they move to the next area.
“So hopefully we will come next year, and there’ll be a bunch of grass seed on there,” he said. “We try to make it look as natural as possible to match the surroundings.”
Holmes hopes that he and his team continue to make a change and “start setting stepping stones” for other communities to reach a sustainable way of logging that revolves around quality over production.
“That gives us the best fighting chance to have a sustainable resource to move forward with,” he said. “The way we have been going and logging and producing, there’s not enough trees and ecosystems to support that.”