COLUMNS: Community Forest project focussed on multiple benefits

Last week the Williams Lake Community Forest toured some harvesting areas.

Last week the members of the Standing Committee for the Williams Lake Community Forest toured some harvesting under way next to Woodland Drive. Community Forest management provided information on logging that is taking place this spring in Douglas fir stands off Birch Lane. This forest is managed by partial-cutting rather than clear cutting, and seeks to achieve multiple objectives:

• Retain mule deer habitat

• Reduce wildfire hazard

• Improve timber production and forest health

• Improve forage production and grazing

• Protect investments in bike trails

• Avoid open burning by providing biomass to Atlantic Power

The harvest prescription calls for the removal of approximately half of the forest cover, with another removal taking place in approximately 30 years. The primary purpose of the harvesting is to remove beetle attack trees, and thin the stand to create a more open forest that would provide a shaded fuel break to reduce the hazard of potential wildfires.

I appreciated the more open forest over the adjacent untreated area as it was more park like and provided a better view of the understory even though the logging is not yet complete. Many of the logs were showing the fine dust patches which indicated they were doing a good job of attracting the beetles which will be moved to the sawmill before they can attack more trees next year. The harvesting provided some immediate benefits to the cattle that will move onto to the area in a few days. Access for grazing animals will be easier especially when the logs and residual material have been removed. The more open forest also makes it easier for the rancher to monitor the cattle and an increase of more nutritious forage is sure to follow with more light and moisture provided to the understory plants.

Ken Day and the management team described the challenge of optimizing multiple objectives throughout the project when trying to meet the needs of the multiple interest groups, local residents and legal obligations. Minimizing the impacts to the local bike groups, maximizing fuel break effectiveness, managing conflicts the cattle grazing, maintaining mule deer habitat, and leaving visual buffers for the adjacent subdivision while managing bark beetles all add to the complexity of harvest planning. Nilsson Select Logging Ltd. of Williams Lake has provided specialized harvesting and forwarding equipment and expertise to carry out the harvesting and it was impressive how the trees have been removed with minimal damage to the remaining forest.

While the harvesting costs using the specialized harvesting equipment are usually more than the traditional feller bunchers the extra expense will be necessary if we are going to achieve the objectives of the multipurpose programs described above. This is a good example of expending a little extra today for long term gains like increased forage production and safer communities.

I would like to thank Ken Day and the UBC staff as well as the contractors for arranging the tour and providing the information for this article.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.