Column: Research and development needed in rehabilitation of forest stands

In the recent Logging and Sawmilling Journal, Tony Kryzanowski raises some interesting questions about research and development.

In the recent Logging and Sawmilling Journal, Tony Kryzanowski raises some interesting questions about research and development (R&D) of Canada’s forest industry.

He starts by discussing the massive changes that have occurred in Canada’s forest industry over the past decade.

He then asks some questions. Is industry getting the best bang for its buck?

Have R&D groups swung the pendulum too far away from delivering on science and technology with tangible deliverables in favour of support for more academic, less immediately tangible research?

After a number of other questions related to industry needs, he states that he doesn’t know the answer and he observes that many R&D groups seem to be struggling to find their footing and purpose and would appreciate some feedback from stakeholders like industry and government.

I would add stakeholders include Aboriginal, environmental and other special interest groups as well.

While I agree with many of the authors’ points, I think we should think beyond the industry needs (depending on how you define “industry.”)

He goes on to clarify this to some extent by stating that “what’s needed is a detailed inventory of all research being done to assist the solid wood, pulp and paper and bioproducts sectors, to determine just how close to commercialization or market readiness each project goal is with the objective of clear short, medium, and long term deliverables for each project.”

He gives an example of how technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds.

For example, a British company is currently demonstrating its aerial drone tree planting technology, which it claims is capable of planting a billion trees per year at only 15 percent of the cost of current planting methods.

Unfortunately, he notes that its application will be mostly for establishment of tree crops and cultivated lands and not in natural forest regeneration which is the majority of land in BC.

What I would like to see is a R&D discussion on how to deal with the short fall of timber caused by the mountain beetle.

There is some interesting work being done by the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) in Alberta.

Their work centres on what industry and other stakeholders can do to capture as much value as possible from impacted stands, while implementing silviculture practices that result in stand reestablishment as soon as possible.

Our approach so far has been to harvest as many stands as possible while the dead trees still make lumber and burn the residual material that does not.

In my opinion we need to incorporate some of the ideas from CWFC on how to remove dead and poor quality green trees and allow the remaining stock to take advantage of the reduced competition.

We need a good inventory of the stands that have the right combination of  quantity and quality of trees that could be modified and produce a harvestable stand sooner than a clear cut.

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.