Merv Wilkinson’s legacy: His old-fashioned, time-tested ‘selection silviculture system’ of eco-forestry was considered a viable alternative to never-ending ‘war in the woods’ over destructive clearcut logging… Walter Cordery, Judith Lavoie report

Merv Wilkinson died at age 97.

Merv Wilkinson, recalled as ‘environmental hero’, has died

Environmentalist logger was awarded Order of Canada for his tireless work

Walter Cordery,

Published: Thursday, September 01, 2011

Photo: Courtesy of Wilkinson family 

Local environmental groups are mourning the death of legendary Wildwood Forest steward Merv Wilkinson, who passed away earlier this week at 97.

His family is not releasing any details surrounding his death, not even the day he died, until an obituary is published in local newspapers, said his daughter Lisa. Details of a service for Wilkinson will be announced then.

He earned international acclaim in the early 1990s when environmentalists from across the globe pointed to his Wildwood Forest operation as an example of sustainable forestry.

At the time, the “war in the woods” and Clayoquot Sound protests over clear-cut logging dominated the news in B.C. and Wilkinson’s selective logging practice was considered a viable alternative.

For decades, Wilkinson earned a living doing sustainable logging on the 55-hectare piece of property he called Wildwood.

His work received such acclaim that in 2009 the Nanaimo-born forester received both the Order of B.C. and Order of Canada.

Wilkinson, in a conversation with the Daily News in 2010, said old-time forestry workers knew how to manage a forest. He recalled a former employer telling him” “Merv don’t you take out any trees that are less than 16 inches at the stump.”

“The old-fashioned logging was way ahead of what we have now. It wasn’t self-destructive. It was sustainable and more people were employed in the industry back then,” Wilkinson said.

It was a University of British Columbia professor who recognized Wilkinson’s natural forestry abilities.

“He told me to get my formal forestry education in Europe as there was nothing good in North America,” Wilkinson told the Daily News.

Gail Adrienne, executive director of the Nanaimo Area Land Trust, said she was “heartbroken” to hear of Wilkinson’s death.

“He truly was an environmental hero, not just for the Nanaimo area, but for the entire world,” she said.

Adrienne met Wilkinson in the early 1990s and said: “I remember thinking that this man is not going to get the recognition that he deserves in his lifetime.

“And then I was proved wrong as he was awarded the Order of Canada for his efforts,” she said.

However, Wilkinson’s passion for protecting forests often brought him public ridicule and even a ride or two in a police cruiser.

He was one of 12,000 people who converged on Clayoquot Sound to protest MacMillan Bloedel’s planned logging of the area in the 1993 in what became knowns as the “war in the woods.” To this day the Clayoquot protest stands as the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history.

“I don’t have any regrets about that  none at all,” Wilkinson said shortly after receiving an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Victoria.

Annette Tanner of the Western Canada Wilderness Committe remembers Wilkinson’s passion for B.C.’s forests.

“Merv was among those at the forefront of supporting efforts to preserve Cathedral Grove. With his passing, we lost an irreplaceable person with irreplaceable knowledge,” said Tanner.

“I guess we shouldn’t be surprised because we all knew he was getting up there (in age) but it’s still such a loss that I’m shocked,” she said. “This is devestating news.”

© Nanaimo Daily News 2011


Eco-forester Merv Wilkinson has died at the age of 97

Merv Wilkinson is congratulated by Chancellor Ronald Lou-Poy after he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws at UVic Fall Convocation in 2005.

Merv Wilkinson is congratulated by Chancellor Ronald Lou-Poy after he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws at UVic Fall Convocation in 2005.

Photograph by: Darren Stone,

Legendary eco-forester Merv Wilkinson, who for more than seven decades demonstrated the value of sustainable logging, has died at the age of 97.

Wilkinson, who was born in Nanaimo on Sept. 22, 1913, continued to live at Wildwood, his 32-hectare forested property near Yellow Point, until he was taken to Nanaimo General Hospital Aug. 29. He died there Wednesday, said his daughter, Tisha Wilkinson.

“He was definitely at peace with what he accomplished in his life. He took pride in what he had done and it was very important to him that he was still in his own home,” she said.

Until the end, family members continued to take him into the forest that he had logged sustainably for so many years, Wilkinson said.

Mervyn Wilkinson was awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of B.C. and was given an honorary degree for his commitment to sustainable logging techniques.

He co-authored a book Wildwood: A Forest for the Future, that continues to be sold worldwide, and was an adviser on numerous television and educational programs dealing with ecoforestry.

Wilkinson’s aim was to cut in relation to what the forest could grow. In 2005 he told the Times Colonist that he had logged more than 2 1 times the original ?2 volume, but still had 110 per cent of the original volume growing.

“I’m most proud of the fact that I have been able to demonstrate here, in Canada, against opposition from industry and government, that you do not have to destroy our forest. You don’t have to kill the world to have timber,” he told the Times Colonist.

In the early 1980s, Wildwood became a teaching centre and Wilkinson took thousands of students and foresters from around the world on field trips.

Educational tours around Wildwood are now run by The Land Conservancy, which in 2000 bought Wildwood from Wilkinson and his former wife Grace while allowing Wilkinson to continue living at the log home that he had built.

Although lauded by environmental groups, Wilkinson was not always appreciated by the forest industry, especially during the 1990s when the war in the woods was at its height.

In 1993 Wilkinson stood on the Kennedy River Bridge at Clayoquot Sound and was arrested with his wife, Anne Pask Wilkinson.

As he was sentenced to 100 hours of community service the judge described him as “magnificently unrepentant.”

During that time Wilkinson was also instrumental in switching the message of protesters from “no logging” to “no clearcut logging.”

Although Wilkinson is best known for his ecoforestry, he was active in many other fields, said Tisha Wilkinson.

He was founding director of Nanaimo Credit Union and Mid-Island Consumer Cooperative and in the 1950s was the founder of the Nanaimo Region Foster Parents Association.

“And, for me, he was an awesome father,” said Tisha Wilkinson.

He is survived by Tisha, daughter Marquita Wilkinson, son Denis Wilkinson and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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2 Responses to Merv Wilkinson’s legacy: His old-fashioned, time-tested ‘selection silviculture system’ of eco-forestry was considered a viable alternative to never-ending ‘war in the woods’ over destructive clearcut logging… Walter Cordery, Judith Lavoie report

  1. Christy Tom says:

    Merv was an awesome person !! he will be greatly missed . Never had a bad thing to say about anyone ever , I looked forward to our visits and the many interesting stories he told. Condolences to the family he was a super human being.

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