In 1938, Merve Wilkinson purchased an old-growth forest on Vancouver Island and began to pioneer a type of sustainable forestry that aimed to harvest no more than the annual growth rate of the overall forest. Only single trees were harvested and the diversity of the forest remained intact. His achievements became more evident as the decades progressed. Those achievements were made possible by the support of his second wife, Grace, and his third wife, Anne (with whom I became good friends). Over time, thousands of people came to visit Merve and his "Wildwood" forest to learn about his alternative to the predominant "clear-cut" industrial forestry that had laid waste to forests in Canada and around the world.

I met him and was inspired to do what I could to help him share his wisdom. The organization I ran in the 1990s (called Leadership Initiative For Earth) then brought about 800 young people there, some staying for week-long camps. We also brought Dr. Jane Goodall to Wildwood on the first of her several visits. Merve died in 2011 at the age of 97. By that time, he had become a legend and had received the Order of Canada and many other distinctions.

I'm delighted to know that, as of late 2016, the Wildwood Ecoforest will be owned by the Ecoforestry Institute Society — which will not only continue eco-forestry there but will enable the public to visit the place and partake in eco-forestry and forest ecology educational activities. Furthermore, this great news means that Wildwood will remain as a public asset not a private one (which almost happened). It was a difficult battle for the Ecoforestry Institute Society and all their supporters — one that involved a successful legal challenge and a lot of fundraising. Bravo to everyone involved! I took this portrait of Merve Wilkinson when he was age 94.


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