Unfortunately it seems that many logging companies are taking advantage of the current drought, getting into wetland areas that are usually inaccessible and cutting down the hardwood trees. There is a particularly brutal example of this in the White Marsh area just outside Whiteville.What locals tell me used to be a beautiful swamp teeming with wildlife (and which would noticeably create a cooler microclimate in the summer) is now a vast clearcut. Whether and when the swamp will be able to recover is a subject up for debate; wetlands take much longer to recover from disturbances than do other forests, especially in extreme cases like clearcuts. And as more and more land is developed, the remaining wetlands become increasingly necessary for wildlife habitat, a natural water filtration and purification system for agricultural runoff and other human-caused pollutants, a carbon sink to mitigate climate change, and a place for us humans to care for our sanity, reconnect with the natural world and get away from the madness of consumer culture.
All in all, I consider myself pretty lucky to have the opportunity to experience all these amazing places and speak with the folks working to protect and restore the land. The contrast between these remarkable ecosystems and the sterile pine plantations I drive through to get to them is also quite striking. As I approached ’s Riegelwood mill, I noticed more and more logging trucks converging on the mill from all directions. But it wasn’t until I actually drove up to the mill and watched the endless procession of trucks full of logs entering the monstrous facility that I fully realized the extent of the wholesale extermination of southern forests. Our life-giving forests and wetlands are literally being sacrificed on the altar of disposable consumerism.
We can’t survive without these ecosystems – let’s get out there and save them!