The Meaning and Magic of Wildwood
Wildwood is a 77 acre forest in Yellow Point which Merv Wilkinson owned and lived in from 1938 to 2011. What distinguishes this forest from others in the Douglas- fir ecosystem? To begin with the east side of Vancouver Island has less than 0.5% of the original Douglas- fir zone that has not been logged. Those areas have been clear cut. Merv learned from a Swedish instructor to follow European logging standards. In other words from those who knew well the harmful effects of clear cutting. His first cut was in 1945. He likely did some high grading or even patch logging for the initial cut but his forest practises improved over the years. There are areas of Wildwood with trees that have never been cut. These trees were left as seed trees or wildlife trees and serve to maintain the forest canopy.
‘The “good” forester takes the highest yield from the forest without deteriorating the soil, the poor one neither obtains this yield nor preserves the fertility of the soil.’ Heinrich Cotta (1763-1844, often called the “pioneer of forestry”). If Cotta can be called the pioneer of forestry perhaps Merv can be called the pioneer of ecoforestry here in BC because Merv adapted his methods to single tree selection forestry the soil and the forest ecology remained intact.
The mix of large Douglas firs, with mixed ages of fir, grand fir, hemlock, cedar, alder, maple, dogwood and arbutus along with mosses, salal, huckleberry, salmonberry and Oregon grape is the stage upon which the mushrooms, deer, squirrels, pileated woodpeckers, ravens, ruby and golden crowned kinglets and other birds and mammals live at Wildwood. The essential difference between a planted and “greened up” clear cut and Wildwood is the variety and diversity of other life forms. This vibrancy of life force is the magic of Wildwood.
The meaning of Wildwood is its demonstration of true forestry. What often passes for forestry within our commercial industry is the theory and practice of deforestation. It should be more honestly described as “deforestry”. It resembles cornfield agriculture, replacing the richly diverse primal forest ecosystems that existed throughout the Pacific Northwest prior to the industrial clearcut logging of modern times. Thousands of people from around the world have come to tour Wildwood and learn from Merv and later from Jay Rastogi. Jay became fascinated by the wisdom of Merv’s approach to caring for the forest, protecting its character while harvesting only a portion of the “interest” it accrued. When Merv’s age prevented him from conducting the tours himself, Jay took over and has been doing that until now.
Wildwood was purchased in 2001 by the Land Conservancy. The purchase was made with the intention that it was permanently protected as a demonstration forest and educational facility. Merv donated $150,000 from his share of the sale to TLC to ensure the protection of Wildwood and that he could live the remaining portion of his life in his forest. Merv died in 2011.
Since Merv’s passing efforts have continued to welcome the public to come and learn about true forestry. The importance of this work cannot be overstated with so little unlogged Douglas-fir forest remaining in this area. Dedicated volunteers are renovating Merv’s log home so that community events and educational programs can be held in the house he built in 1962. The Ecoforestry Institute meets in the house. They manage the Wildwood forest. A new group called Friends of Wildwood was formed in July, 2013. Members of the public are welcome to join and partake in events and activities at Wildwood.
Anyone wanting to join Friends of Wildwood can do so by sending $10 per person or $20 for a family to Friends of Wildwood, 2933 Crane Road, Ladysmith, BC, V9G 1C8.