Riverbank Tree Cutting and Replanting
Riverbank tree cutting (2009-2010)
When we visited Horoka Tomamu on 23 May 2010, we discovered that a section of the attractive riverscape immediately in front of the conservation area had disappeared. (At the time we wrote "Sadly, Mt Maru (Maruyama) is now a scarred beauty".)
Trees on both sides of the confluence of the Yonosawa stream and the Horoka Tomamu River had been cut, and the ground flattened by tree harvesters. Some fine specimens had been taken, including some 80 year-old ash, elm, alder and poplar tees. (See map below, lots 2019-1 and 2021-1.)
We later found out that the work was a 'winter unemployment measure', funded by a government employment subsidy, to make way for a plantation of Sakhalin spruce (Picea glehnii) planned for the autumn of 2011. The work had been done by the local Furano Forest Owners Cooperative on behalf of the local government. (The land was publicly owned by Shimukappu Village.)
Original treescape in March 2009, reconstructed from video footage
Single-species tree plantations on low-lying wetland are unusual -- either in Japan or anywhere else -- they produce poor timber, cause erosion and harm wildlife. We wrote to the Shimukappu local government head on 11 June 2010, offering to help pay for the restoration of the land to its original condition, including replanting with original, environmentally-sensitive hardwood species and deerfencing etc. The following month, we offered to buy the main lot (2019-1) outright. On 24 July 2010, we had an inconclusive meeting with the village head and officials and our offer to buy the land was refused.
The area in May 2010
Murakami Report (September 2010)
At our invitation, the botanist Dr Yuhide Murakami, of the Japanese Center for International Studies in Ecology in Yokohama, visited the site on 13 September 2010. He wrote a report on 10 October that year, making an analysis of the natural environment. We presented the report to the head of the local government, later that same day. The report, in pdf form in Japanese, is here: MYreport2.pdf
Riverbank tree cutting (October 2010)
Unfortunately another section of the riverbank, this time a privately-owned section at the Ichinosawa Bridge, was cut through by a tree harvester on 8/9 October 2010. No mature hardwood trees were taken, only conifers, but the damage to the banks was considerable.
Riverbank destruction 8/9 October 2010: a tree harvester was driven straight through this ford
Inspection by Hokkaido River Authority (May 2011)
In the spring of 2011, we learned that the river was under the theoretical protection of the Hokkaido prefectural government. At our request an official checked the area on 16 May 2011, with representatives from the village and the Furano Forest Owners Cooperative. A report was produced on 24 May 2011. (We were asked not to quote it here, but it was broadly supportive of our view that the riverbank had been damaged.)
Nagasaka Report (May 2011)
At our invitation, the ecologist Nagasaka Yu of the Hokkaido Forestry Research Institute, visited the site on 26 May, writing a short report on 11 June. His focus was on explaining how the area could be replanted in an environmentally sensitive way, suggesting using the patchwork/mosaic method developed and tested by the Hokkaido Forestry Research Institute. His report, in pdf form in Japanese, is here: NYreport1.pdf
Meeting with Shimukappu Village officials (September 2011)
We were invited to a meeting with Shimukappu Village officials on 8 September 2011. The village agreed to replant the area (both lots 2019-1 and 2021-1, a total area of 1.3 hectares) using the patchwork method to mix ash, alder, poplar, birch and Sakhalin fir. (Elm would have been included, however this tree is not on the prefectural government's list of grant approved species.) Planting density will be reduced, as compared with the diagram above, using 1o, rather than 7, square metre units.
Replanting (November 2011)
The planting took place around 12-14 November 2011.
Replanting work immediately in front of Horoka Tomamu Montane Forest on 12 November 2011
Note: A recent study by Shigeo Kuramoto, Shozo Sasaki, Shin Abe, and Satoshi Ishibashi on 'Post-harvest damage and subsequent survival following selection harvesting of small understory trees in a mixed conifer-hardwood forest in Hokkaido Island, northern Japan', based on data gathered in nearby Ikutora, was presented at the Forest Engineering Conference (FORMEC) in Padova, Italy this July.
The authors explain "Maintaining abundance and diversity in understory trees after harvesting is important for sustainable management and biodiversity conservation in mixed conifer-hardwood forests . . .".
SCH and MMH, 6 September 2012