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When
you put money in a bank account, the bank pays you interest. As
long as you leave the money in the bank, it keeps growing. If you
had $50 and the bank paid you 8% interest, in nine years you would
have twice as much money. That is what we call an investment. You
receive more than you put in. The COs only got paid fifty cents
a day, so they weren't able to save up any money, but they made
a different kind of investment: they planted trees.
The
conscientious objector program with the BC Forestry Service included
planting trees in burned out forests. Between May 1942 and March
1944, COs planted seventeen million trees. Now, more than sixty
years later, these trees are reaching maturity. The little seedlings
have become great forests. In 1995, Ed Janzen estimated the value
of these trees.
“Seventeen
million trees were planted in those two years. I called up a couple
of sawmills and lumberyards and asked, “How many board feet of
lumber can you get out of a 50yearold fir tree?” The most conservative
figure calculated on the basis of trees 40 feet [12 m] tall, 2
feet [60 cm] thick estimated the yield at 3000 board feet per
tree. Multiplied by 17 million trees, makes over 5 billion board
feet of lumber on the Island today. A builder figuring 35 cents
a board foot, valued the trees that COs planted in those two years,
50 years ago at 1.75 billion dollars. If you divide it by the
50 years, it still amounts to $35,700,000 of value a year that
has grown in forest planted by COs.”
[ASP,
278280]

Three former COs view mature trees 
The
COs spent 22,820 mandays (or 182,560 hours) planting trees. Take
the estimated value, $1.75 billion, and divide by the number of
hours. Every hour the COs spent planting trees resulted in $9500
worth of lumber. And the COs worked for fifty cents a day.
Even
if the trees are never cut down and sold as lumber, they are still
worth a lot. A mature tree recycles twelve kilograms of pollution
every year. How many kilograms could seventeen million trees recycle
in one year? Trees also produce oxygen, regulate the air temperature,
and provide places for wildlife to live.
Economic
and ecological estimates are one part of the CO story. For the COs
who planted the seedlings, the grown trees are a living example
of their wartime contribution. Even for those who don't know that
the COs reforested thousands of acres in BC, the forests are beautiful
sight to behold. In 1988, Dave Parker, Minister of Forests for British
Columbia, gave a speech on this bold program of reforestation.
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