Sask. man, 78, arrested after standing in path of brush and tree clearing

An elderly Saskatchewan man was arrested this week after he tried to stop a brush and tree clearing operation near his home.

Myles MacDonald says trees provided invaluable habitat for birds, frogs and other animals

Myles MacDonald goes for a walk each day outside his Prince Albert-area home. He says it won't be the same after the local rural municipality cut down the roadside trees. (Jason Warick/CBC)

An elderly Saskatchewan man was arrested this week after he tried to stop a brush and tree clearing operation near his home.

"Damn it, why do they do this? Why are they insisting on carrying on this way, mulching all these trees, messing up the habitat for all the small wildlife which aren't hurting anybody?" Myles MacDonald said Thursday as he walked through the ditch near his home in Paddockwood, Sask., about 150 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

MacDonald, 78, is an artist with paintings displayed in galleries across Canada. He said many of his works are inspired by the daily walks he takes on the local grid roads.

Earlier this week, MacDonald saw a worker clearing trees and brush from the adjacent ditches. Macdonald asked the worker to stop.

The man continued, so MacDonald stood in front of the machine and refused to move.

"He said, 'You're stopping me from doing my job.' I said, 'That's exactly what I'm trying to do.' " MacDonald said. 

Artists Myles MacDonald has used the forest near his Prince Albert-area home as inspiration for several of his paintings. (Jason Warick/CBC)

MacDonald said the man told him the trees made the road more muddy and snowy. MacDonald told him he's lived there nearly 40 years and the trees keep snow off the road.

People like me — these tree huggers, ancient hippies — well, soon we'll be dead.- Myles MacDonald

The worker called the RCMP. MacDonald was arrested and taken to police cells near Prince Albert. He was held for a few hours. By the time he got back home, all the trees had been cut down.

The Rural Municipality of Paddockwood says it needed to clear brush this week on a one kilometre stretch of road. Residents Meg and Myles MacDonald say the operation needlessly destroyed the ever-shrinking natural spaces in the area. (Jason Warick/CBC)

A one-kilometre stretch of brush and trees had been removed from the ditch on the south side of the road.

"I'm looking at all of this stuff and wondering 'What the hell are the thinking?' " MacDonald said.

"Nobody's considering the cloudy salamanders or spring peepers, let alone these Pacific tree frogs which are extremely rare around here, much less the garter snakes, the voles — just because they aren't moose or deer."

This is what the grid road near Myles MacDonald`s home looked like last summer. (Sarah MacDonald)

MacDonald noted the habitat in question was not near an intersection, so road safety was not an issue.

RM of Paddockwood councillor Tom McKnight said they clear brush from roadsides every year. He said they stay off private property and limit the cutting to RM road allowances.

"It's a big deal right now. People are saying the world's coming to an end. Well, it's not coming to an end because we cut some willows in the ditch," McKnight said.

Meg Shatilla and Myles MacDonald have lived near the village of Paddockwood for nearly 40 years. (Jason WarickéCBC)

MacDonald said he didn't make any progress after speaking this week with provincial and federal conservation officials. He said he'll still go for his walks along the road, but it won't feel the same. He hopes officials here and across Saskatchewan will think twice before destroying the ever-shrinking number of natural spaces.

"They're following playbooks written years and years ago," MacDonald said.

"I'm just a thorn in their side. People like me — these tree huggers, ancient hippies — well, soon we'll be dead. They can wait until it all grows back and then cut it down again. We won't be here to see it."


Jason Warick


Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

with files from Janani Whitfield


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