Of Forests and Foresters

The Berea College Forest has been a wonderful resource for Berea, both the College and the Town. This nearly 9000 wooded acres, much of it hilly and all of it beautiful, provides many dividends to the College and to all local folks who take advantage of it: hiking and climbing; bird and wildlife observation; a learning laboratory in sustainability and commitment to the natural environment for our students; wild flowers and other aspects of the flora of the region, water for our town and the area, wood for local mills and for use at the College, and our contribution to the challenge of dealing with the runaway atmospheric load of carbon dioxide.

Environmental prophet Aldo Leopold, in his most important work, Sand County Almanac, provides both our forestry motto, “Think like a mountain,” and our paradigm for managing this college asset.  Leopold wrote, “We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

The week of October 27th through November 3rd was Biological Woodsmen Week. Restorative foresters joined our own foresters, and horses Holly and Willow, to demonstrate sustainable forestry (Photo gallery below). While they were logging in the Berea College Forest, the foresters harvested thousands of board-feet of lumber, the horses replacing bulldozers and skidders that pollute and contribute to erosion.

On the final day, the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center hosted a Biological Woodsmen gathering and restorative forestry demonstration, which included selecting and felling a tree and showing those in attendance how these magnificent horses pull together to transport the logs out of the forest. Special guests for the day included founder of the Healing Harvest Forestry Foundation Jason Rutledge, Berea Mayor Steven Connelly, and Kentucky literary great Wendell Berry. Attendees followed the woodsmen into the forest, and observed the practice of sustainable forestry.

Rutledge entertained the crowd with his trademark wit, explaining that horse logging was not a thing of the past, but the future. Horses, he said, unlike machines, “are solar powered, self-repairing, and self-renewing.”  Emphasizing the last of those he noted, “You’ve never found a baby tractor in the barn!”   Rutledge recalled attending a traditional forestry conference.  After his presentation a skeptic suggested that surely Rutledge would agree that all the wood in Appalachia couldn’t be harvested with horses.  He responded, “Do you mean again?”  

We hope Aldo Leopold was also present in spirit.  He would have agreed that these loggers and their animals represent the correct approach to management of the Berea College forest.

I want to thank Clint Patterson, Berea College Forester, and Wendy Warren, Director of the Forestry Outreach Center, for their efforts to make Biological Woodsmen Week a success. I also want to thank Glenn Dandeneau, Trey Prather and the students of our forestry team for their hard work in sustaining this tremendous community resource while teaching Berea students to do the same.