Where Do We Stand

North Cowichan Forest Review

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Status Quo and Reduced Harvest Scenarios

Where Do We Stand

For those of you that don't know how the Municipal logging works, we have prepared a simple analysis (logging 101) of the  "Status Quo" and "Reduced Harvest" forest management scenarios.

We focused most of the analysis on one Mt. Prevost clearcut (P800-A) which was cut in 2018 just before the logging pause.

The methods shown here have been used for the last 40 years primarily behind yellow gates mainly on the back side of the Forest Reserve mountains.

First off - what is the "Status Quo" scenario?

The "status quo" method of harvesting is clearcutting with reserves.

A clearcut is an area of forestland where most of the standing trees are logged at the same time and a few trees remain post-harvest. Forested buffers are left around streams and lakes, and the area is replanted within one years of harvest.

Mt. Prevost 2018 clearcut - P800-A

Our understanding of the "Status Quo" logging process is as follows:

  • logging roads are cut into the forest
  • clearcuts averaging 7 hectares are cut on one or both sides of the logging road.
  • A target of 15% of the trees are left (retention) for seeding and diversity.
  • the slash piles (debris) are burned in the fall (average 87 piles burnt per year - 2012-17 Forestry Report)
  • the new trees are planted in the spring.
  • according to the recent Forestry reports  - approx. 50% of the cut trees are exported - the rest are sold domestically
  • the new tree plantation grows for 50 to 75 years and the process is repeated.

TECHNICAL EXPLANATION: Targeted logging up to an annual maximum of 2% of the total forested area is conducted as part of sustainable management of the MFR. The annual allowable cut (AAC) is 20,000 cubic meters per year.

Based on the Forestry Reports from 2012 to 2017 - the average annual cut is 44 hectares (a hectare is roughly 2 1/2 acres). This is spread out over an average of 6 clearcut patches.

This video shows the logging road with clearcuts on both sides of the road. To the left you can see the slash burning plies and the newly planted trees in the white protective cones. This was cut on the north side of Mt. Prevost in 2018 just before the pause on logging. (source: WHEREDOWESTAND - sorry for the bad video quality here - these were taken a couple of years ago and we don't have a higher resolution version)

This is a time lapse video of the clearcut patches on Mt. Prevost over the time period from 1984 to 2016. The clearcuts on the far left are on private lands. The lighter patches in the center to center left are the recent cuts on Mt. Prevost. You can see that over almost 40 years - a good portion of the backside of the Mountain has been cut. (source: Google Earth)

The new trees are planted with protective cones (source: North Cowichan Forest Reports)

One of the challenges with harvesting close to the community is the spread of broom in the clearcuts. This picture shows an old clearcut on Stoney Hill that is overrun with Broom. It was so thick that the planted trees were struggling to grow and the area had to be cleared and new trees planted. The broom problem is much worse on the mixed use mountains - Stoney Hill, Maple and Tzouhalem where the hiking and biking trails are cut through the clearcuts. Source WHEREDOWESTAND

Slash pile burn on Mt. Prevost P100-A (source: North Cowichan Forest Reports) The slash piles (debris) are burned in the fall (average 87 piles burnt per year - 2012-17 Forestry Report)

In recent years - approx. 50% of the harvested trees are shipped overseas.

What would the "Reduced Harvest" scenario look like?

According to the OCT 4 UBC Presentation to Council the differences would be:

  • Annual timber harvesting in this scenario is reduced to ~40% of the historical harvesting rate compared to Scenario 1: Status Quo.
  • Harvesting areas would use variable retention, meaning small openings would be harvested instead of a more traditional cut block. At least 35% of the trees would be retained in each harvesting cut block.
  • There may be increased harvest costs because of the increased retention and other technical considerations. There can be risks, such as greater windthrow, if variable retention is not done properly. Regeneration may also be slower because there is more shade.
  • There is greater retention (50% or 80%) in some areas to meet the to meet the visual quality goals.
  • At the last Forest Advisory Committee Meeting, the forestry professionals did express some concern for the safety of the forestry workers - it is not easy to fall and move trees with 35%+ retention.

The Municipality has not included any pictures of "Reduced Harvest" in the Public Engagement materials. As a matter of fact there are no pictures of "status quo" or "reduced harvest" in the discussion guide, zoom or public meetings. We had to look elsewhere to find examples.

Here are 3 examples from the BC Mother Tree Project website of possible "Reduced Harvest" strategies. To learn more about this Canadian Forestry research project: https://mothertreeproject.org/mother-tree-experiment/methods/

Single tree retention: Approx. 25 mature trees per hectare retained in a uniform distribution. Preference given to retaining dominant old Douglas-fir

30% patch retention: Retention of 30% of the stand area in patches (“islands”) containing mature old Douglas-fir and their neighbours. No cutting within the retained patches. All trees of all sizes cut in the 70% of the stand area that is cleared. Retained patches about 30-40 m in diameter, with no connectivity between retained patches; patches can be irregularly shaped

60% group retention with thinning: Retention of 60% of the stand area in connected patches containing mature old Douglas-fir and their neighbours. Retained patches thinned from below by reaching in with a machine. All trees of all sizes cut in the 40% of the stand area that is cleared. Retained areas and gaps can be irregularly shaped

We have many questions:

  • Do you need the same number of logging roads as Status Quo?
  • What techniques or machinery is required for this type of logging?

The challenge of the "Reduced Harvest" high retention logic - is how do you drop the trees and get them out of the forest with 35% or more of the trees still standing. These videos (above and below) are of the 2019 blowdown removal on Stoney Hill, which is a similar situation - where you are trying to selectively remove trees. What you end up with is smaller clearcuts leading to logging roads - you still need to get the trees out of the forest. Source: WDWS

Where will the logging occur?

Up till now, most of the logging has been done behind the yellow logging gates in the more remote sections of the mountains. Now we are looking at logging much closer to the community.

In simple terms - all the MFR areas (green & purple) above would be part of the logging inventory - unless they are designated off limits for ecological, social or cultural reasons.

To View the UBC Forestry Presentation to Council click on the links below

Video Excerpt on Status Quo scenario

Video excerpt on Reduced Harvest scenario

NOTE: The information related to harvesting & carbon revenue, the logging maps, social and ecological indicators are sourced from the UBC Forestry slide presentation to Council.
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