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Local filmmaker tackles clear-cutting controversy  

McDonald is ready to tackle another local controversy, noting he is currently developing and trying to find financing to film a documentary on industrial wind turbines.

Credit:  “Caroline: Trees, People, Politics” being screened March 10 | By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News | Sunday, January 25, 2015 | www.chathamdailynews.ca ~~

Thamesville native Wesley McDonald told The Chatham Daily News he decided to tackle the project for his film, titled “Caroline: Trees, People, Politics,” after signing a petition on clear-cutting.

“I had heard about the issue and I knew that there was a lot of emotion there,” said the 28-year-old, who is a graduate of Laurentian University, where he studied rhetoric in media.

He said agriculture is a large part of Chatham-Kent, but so is the green sustainability movement.

“I just thought those are two big egos there,” McDonald said, adding he felt people would be interested in the controversy if he was able to get it on film.

Shot entirely in Chatham-Kent, the documentary will be shown for the first time on March 10 at the Kiwanis Theatre in Chatham.

The clear-cutting of hundreds of acres of woodlots in rural areas pitted neighbour against neighbour in some cases. The situation became more volatile when word go out that Chatham-Kent council was considering imposing a short-term clear-cutting moratorium ahead of implementing a tree cutting bylaw. This prompted some landowners to cut down their woodlots before having any kind of rules imposed upon them.

The rise in farmland value was also cited as a reason for clear-cutting.

Last summer, the municipality adopted a natural heritage conservation plan instead of implementing a bylaw.

When asked if people were receptive to being part of the documentary, McDonald said, “yes and no.

“The film is a fair film,” he said, but added, “it does lean heavily towards the pro-regulation side of things, the conservation side of things.”

He noted this is due to the fact most people from the agricultural community were not willing to talk to him.

He contacted members of the Chatham-Kent United Farm Voice and was told they felt they had been misrepresented in the past through the media, and had decided as a group to not speak with any media on this subject.

McDonald said he tried to set up interviews with several farmers, but also didn’t get much of a response.

When asked how tough it is to tell a story when it’s difficult to get both sides, he said, “it’s impossible.

In standard journalism “there is no arrangement of facts that is purely objective,” McDonald said.

“When you don’t have all the facts, that objectivity is even less,” he added.

However, McDonald said there are a lot of people in the documentary who talk about the financial realities of modern agriculture in Chatham-Kent. This includes the fact that small and medium-sized farmers have to expand to remain competitive and maintain their livelihood, he added.

Former Wallaceburg councillor Sheldon Parsons, who brought the motion before council to have a moratorium on clear-cutting, was interviewed for the film.

Parsons said he took part, because “I believed in the cause.”

He said there has been a lot of angst over the past three or four years with respect to different approaches and different level of concerns over the natural environment, particularly to woodlot coverage and conservation across Chatham-Kent.

Parsons believes improving tree cover is a “very important, worthwhile endeavour.

“It’s a goal we need to attain, and we just need to improve our performance . . . across Chatham-Kent,” he added.

He knows that goes directly to encouraging landowners to be better stewards of the land “than has been a our practice over the last hundred years.”

However, Parson stated 95%, if not more, of local landowners are already concerned and are doing something to ensure whatever woodlot is left is protected.

He said it’s only a small percentage of landowners that have been responsible for the clear-cutting that has taken place.

A key message McDonald wants viewers to take way from the documentary is: “In order to maintain our way of life, our whole notion of sustainability and agriculture has to change.”

He said the system is so engrained in modern agriculture, and so difficult to change, “that’s, I think, probably the real problem.

“It’s not keeping those darn farmers from cutting down all our trees,” he added. “It’s giving farmers better tools.”

McDonald said the film’s title was chosen because Chatham-Kent exists in the Carolinian forest life zone.

“I tried to sort of anthropomorphize the issue by showing that it’s a human problem, not agriculture versus biology,” he said.

It took 15 months for McDonald to create the documentary with the help of his friend Andrew Sagriff, a Chatham native, who wrote and recorded the original score for the film, as well as served as production assistant.

Not being able to find farmers willing to have clear-cutting filmed on their property, McDonald admits it wasn’t until late in the game that he actually had footage of a woodlot being cleared.

He noted a friend was clearing a woodlot and he received permission to film it.

“It sort of put the cherry on top of the film.”

McDonald is ready to tackle another local controversy, noting he is currently developing and trying to find financing to film a documentary on industrial wind turbines.

He is also working on a project with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority – his first actual paid gig – to do a film about heritage trees in Chatham-Kent.

ellwood.shreve@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/DailyNewsES

“Caroline: Trees, People, Politics”

Documentary being shown March 10, at Kiwanis Theatre in Chatham.

Tickets $10. VIP tickets $20, which includes refreshments and a meet and greet with director after the screening.

Tickets are available at William Street Cafe in Chatham. Tickets for people living in different communities in Chatham-Kent can be purchased by calling: for Chatham area – 519-917-1305 or 226-626-4335; Thamesville – 519-692-4376; Ridgetown – 519-350-0432; Wallaceburg – 519-627-8696.

Trailers for the documentary can be viewed at facebook.com/carolinedocumentary

Source:  “Caroline: Trees, People, Politics” being screened March 10 | By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News | Sunday, January 25, 2015 | www.chathamdailynews.ca

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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