What is the impact of forest management on the North Cowichan Climate Change Plan?

January 16, 2019

The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

With that in mind - is there a way to use our community forest to really make a difference in the climate change math?

Lets evaluate the affect of continuing our patch clear-cut logging operations vs. leaving the forest as it currently stands for the next 12 years.

Our forest is roughly 5,000 Hectares - (9,450 football fields)

The last 6 years we have an average cut of approx. 44 hectares per year - (83 football fields).

If we continued with the current plan we would remove 528 Hectares (1000 football fields) of 50+ year old trees over the next 12 years.

These 50+ year old trees would be replaced with new plantings.

the new forest (trees, soil & detrius) only sequester a small fraction of the carbon compared to the older forest

Over the 12 year time period - the new forest is no match for the older forest when it comes to accumulating and sequestering carbon.

The charts below show that the forest does not really start accumulating a substantial amount of carbon until the trees are 20 years old.

The maximum rate of landscape sequestration occurs from 30 to 70 years and doesn't really slow down until the trees are over 100 years old.

For the 12 year time period ... how much carbon sequestration are we losing by clear-cut logging?

from the US Forest Service website

from the BC Forest Practices website

example of research into the effect of clear-cutting on carbon sequestration

On top of this we need to factor in the effect of the seasonal slash burn. For the last 6 years ending 2017, we burned an average of 87 slash piles per year. Questions for the Forester - Why don't we use air curtains burners to reduce the carbon emissions from the slash burn (this is mandated by the Municipality for land clearing and development outside the urban containment boundary) ? How much carbon is released to the atmosphere through the forestry slash burns?

To calculate the amount of carbon released in the burn - we can get a rough estimate from the BC total emissions (BC Carbon Inventory Reports 2012-16). It is estimated that slash-burning makes up between 7% and 13% of the total carbon released in BC.

If we continue with the same forest management strategy for the next 12 years - we will cut approx. 1,000 football fields of 50+ year trees.

It will take 20+ years before the new forest is as effective in sequestering carbon as the older forest.

We will also burn approx. 1,050 slash piles - adding more carbon to the atmosphere.

note: B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said the government would look at applying carbon tax on slash burning "in the next couple of years."

Question: Could we apply for BC Carbon Tax Credits - if we protect the 3000+ hectares of 50+ year old trees?

Forest Management could turn out to be one of the biggest controllable factors in our local Climate Change Plan.

Very few communities in the world have their own 5000 hectare community forest that can be factored into the equation.

from the 2012 North Cowichan Forestry Report

This article is designed to pose questions and spark debate, not to provide answers. This article is based on online research, talking with experts and visual observation. Please use the online form below if you believe there is more to this story than we are aware of.

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District of North Cowichan, Vancouver Island BC