A forwarder is used for thinning and spacing work at the Williams Lake Community Forest. (Photo submitted)

A forwarder is used for thinning and spacing work at the Williams Lake Community Forest. (Photo submitted)

FOREST INK: Leave the best and take the rest

The idea is to remove some of the competition of the understory species to improve growth

This catchy phrase describes spacing and commercial thinning systems that have been used for years in some European forest industries.

The idea is to remove some of the competition of the understory species to improve the growth of the larger more valuable trees used for lumber.

An article by Cheryl Jahn writing for CKPG Today describes how Pacific Bioenergy has a strong need for junky wood, such as the deciduous trees and the stunted and unhealthy pine, spruce and Douglas fir.

Much of our traditional harvesting involved clearing everything off the land, taking the viable wood to the mills and piling the “junk” into slash piles which were often burned. If done properly removing the lower residual material improves the chances for the larger stands to grow healthier and as the understorey recovers more food sources would become available for deer, moose and other forest creatures.

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Pacific Bioenergy is the perfect customer for the junk wood since it uses around 800,000 cubic metres a year in the Prince George Timer Supply Area (PGTSA). The problem is residual wood is becoming scarce because of mill closures and with mountain pine beetle salvage winding down the annual allowable cut is dropping. Fewer sawmills means less residuals and that makes for a good fit between logging companies wanting to practice sustainable logging and Pacific Bioenergy who needs the wood.

And while it is a more intensive style of log harvesting, it may be a direction for the future with a demand for a greener industry. There will probably be some limitations how far the residual material can be economically trucked to the pellet plant but it will be a much better option than spraying the material with herbicides.

In my opinion this new style of logging would benefit the commercial forest and many browsing animals it may pose some impacts if it is not properly planned. There should also be a long range plan on the optimum location of future blocks that take into consideration biodiversity.

It happens there is an recent article on proper planning in the same news source about the Forest Practices Board (FPB) being concerned over biodiversity relating to old growth forests in the PGTSA.

Matt Fetinko in an article “Biodiversity at risk in PG Timber Supply Area” describes the following: “While all the legal requirements are being met, the investigation outlined several issues with how government and licensees are managing old forest. The legal order for biodiversity was developed nearly 20 years ago and while much has changed in regards to forestry, this order was not. The PG TSA is the largest in the province totalling roughly eight-million hectares.

“One of the key issues is that the legal requirements have not been reviewed or updated to reflect the impacts of the mountain pine beetle, updated science or society’s changing values,” said Kevin Kriese, chair of the FPB. “The PG TSA is also one of the few areas in the province where the amount of old forest legally required to be conserved is not specifically identified on maps, but is measured as a percentage of the overall forest inventory.”

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This creates risks to other forest values because the old growth may not be properly distributed throughout the TSA. Because of the beetles, wildfires and subsequent salvage logging the FPB is recommending that the remaining old forest be mapped and that government revisit its approach to protection of biodiversity in the PG TSA.

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.

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