CLICK to download a pdf of this article
Getting the most out of your iron with new regs
Training sessions are helping Nova Scotia logging contractors get up to speed with changes in forest management regulations— including limits on clearcutting—and helping them get the most out of their equipment with the new forest management strategy.
By George Fullerton
When the Nova Scotia government moved forward with a new natural resources strategy in 2011, it created a number of fundamental changes in the way forests all across the province will be operated.
The strategy came about as a result of an extensive public and stakeholder consultation process dating back to 2007. The consultation process determined five key values that natural resources management will reflect, notably sustainability, transparency, diversity, collaboration, and informed decision making. These are all aimed toward guiding management planning for biodiversity, forests, geological resources, and parks.
The strategy establishes 23 goals, acting toward long-term economic gains while ensuring a healthy natural environment through an integrated ecosystem approach to resources stewardship.
Nova Scotia’s forest resource covers some four million hectares and consists of private woodlots, industrial forest lands and Crown forests.
For the forest industry, the resulting policy, among other things, brought a limit to the amount of clearcutting that will occur in Nova Scotia’s forests, eliminated full tree harvesting and introduced new guidelines for forest biomass harvesting.
“The Path We Share, A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia 2011–2020, is about doing important things differently,” said then-Minister of Natural Resources, Charlie Parker.
Since forest management and harvesting relies in a large way on contractor services, the industry very quickly identified a need for contractor training to help them meet the challenges that the new management strategy presented. Prior to adopting the new management strategy, it was estimated that about ninety-five percent of forest harvesting was by clearcutting.
In late 2011, the Canadian Woodlands Forum (CWF) was one of the leading proponents in designing and delivering a contractor training program, focusing on partial cut harvesting, for forestry contractors working for the Port Hawkesbury Paper mill.
Peter Robichaud, executive director of the CWF, explained that the initial training program provided the Port Hawkesbury Paper contractors with a good understanding of partial harvest strategy and operational practices to meet specific silviculture targets.
Based on their success with the Port Hawkesbury contractor training, the CWF with the support of the forest industry made a proposal to Natural Resources to offer similar training to 20 harvest contractors in other regions of the province. In the autumn of 2013, the CWF in collaboration with the Forest Safety Society of Nova Scotia, Forest Liaison, FPInnovations and the Department of Natural Resources, began a series of contractor training sessions.
In addition to developing and managing the training program, CWF was instrumental in co-ordinating funding support for contractor training and helped secure critical funding from WIPSI (the Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive program from the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism) and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources.
Alan Eddy, director of private land stewardship and outreach at DNR, explained that the Department came on board to support contractor training, recognizing that contractors faced exceptional challenges as they adapted their operations to meet requirements demanded by new forestry strategy.
“DNR came on board with funding support, picking up where WIPSI stopped. DNR realizes that forestry training is expensive and has to be done in the field, and understood the need to compensate contractors for lost productivity during the training.”
Training goals included details of the new forest management strategy and the forest ecosystem classification system which directs management and harvest planning. Participants were also provided instruction in GPS and production data collection technologies and how it is best integrated in operations.
The training also focused on safety and how harvesting equipment—previously used primarily for clearcut harvesting—can be most efficiently utilized for partial harvesting. The two week program consisted of one day in classroom, and the balance in on-the-ground operational training, with coaching delivered by a combination of training partners and technical experts.
Each of the three training sessions began with crews of six to eight contractors in a classroom to cover the principles of Forest Ecological Land Classification, tree species identification and silvics (looking at this history and characteristics of trees with reference to local factors), operating in a partial harvest context, meeting prescription objectives, maintaining trail width and intervals, determining acceptable and unacceptable (residual) growing stock and minimizing crop tree damage, hardwood log optimization, GPS navigation and evaluating harvest treatment quality.
Another key element of the classroom training was introducing many participants to the concept of forest basal area calculation, and how it is used to guide harvest prescription and to measure the results of partial harvest target treatment.
Critical to any training program is the quality of the instruction. The program brought together a group of very talented individuals who possessed technical knowledge and a clear understanding of the operational challenges operators face in the transition from clearcut harvesting to a partial harvest regime.
Al Angrignon with the Safety Society of Nova Scotia came to the training team with his qualification as a Registered Professional Forester, in addition to many years of experience as a harvesting contractor, as well as a clear understanding of the safety challenges that the switch to partial harvest will present.
Because the partial harvest prescription may change a number of times in a single harvest block, accurate mapping is critical. Consequently, the training included instruction on GPS and production data collection, using FPDat systems (GPS and data collection) in the harvesters.
Rod Babcock with Fusion Intel provided instruction and technical field support for the FPDat technology training. Tony Mummery supported the FPDat technology, handling installing and uninstalling the units, uploading and downloading shape files for each block, in addition to tech support.
Typically, clearcut harvest operations in Nova Scotia have used harvesters (working as processors) following feller bunchers. With more partial harvest prescriptions, harvesters will be required to handle more felling. Carl Tingley, a training coach with Forest Liaison Inc., joined the team and provided individual coaching for operators to hone their felling and trail management skills.
Tingley explained that one aspect of his training is to explain and develop operator work technique, but just as importantly, to ensure that the machine itself is operating at its full efficiency. He emphasized that if the machine is not performing to its potential, the operator will not reach his production potential.
“Take for example limbing knife sharpness,” he explained. “With one operator we increased his tree throughput by 50 per cent, simply by sharpening the knives properly.
“Not only did we correct his need to run the stem through the knives multiple times to get the limbs off, but it also increased his length measurement accuracy since the measure wheel was not jumping and skipping over ragged knots. The operators took a positive approach to the training, and they saw their efficiency improve very quickly”.
Prescribing a partial harvest, be it selection, shelterwood or commercial thinning, requires detailed data collection about species health and quality, in addition to soil and terrain. Harvest prescriptions provide the assessed pre-harvest basal area, and targeted post-harvest basal area that the operator should meet.
While DNR staff initially expressed concern about teaching the concept and practice of basal area to operators in a limited time, Al Angrion said that all participants quickly grasped the concept and immediately put the concept to practice.
“With the in-class session, we presented basal area theory and within minutes operators and contractors were using their thumb, held at arm’s length, to practice basal area on coffee mugs, coffee urns, other objects around the room,” said Angrion. “For operations, the basal area measuring tool we opted for is a metal angle gauge, rather than a prism. We were able to produce angle gauges for just a few dollars as opposed to a significant expense for a prism. The angle gauge is practical and simple to use.
“I encourage machine operators to check their residual basal area fairly early in their shift, and to systematically make checks throughout their work shift,” he added.
In addition to quick uptake of the basal area concept, the trainers pointed out that operators and contractors have been equally adept at catching on to the GPS technology.
In a cab tour of Dana Day’s Cat harvester/LogMax 7000 head, operator Carl Killen confidently flipped through screens, viewing maps as well as production data. Commenting on his familiarity and confidence working with the technology, Killen pointed out that he had worked with the system for only a few days.
Field training necessitated bringing the contingent of half dozen contractors with multiple machines into an area where trainers were able to circulate between each machine in a reasonable amount of time to do coaching.
“It was a significant challenge to find a large number of qualifying cut blocks in relatively close proximity. Even in the training mode, that many harvesters cover a major amount of forest,” said Canadian Woodlands Forum’s Peter Robichaud.
The new forest management strategy means big changes for harvesting in Nova Scotia. While industry and contractors express concern about the motivation for the changes, and in some cases the appropriateness and viability (wind firmness, crop tree quality) of partial harvest prescriptions in certain stand types, they do agree that the training program has given operators the opportunity to learn what partial harvest treatments require and provided the practical support to develop the necessary skills to be successful.
Following the training, Dana Day said the training was a good and improved his operators’ partial cut harvesting skills. “It was a positive experience for our operators and I was really impressed with the GPS technology and I can see how it can make our operation a lot more efficient,” said Dana.
Barry Yuill, Woodlands Operations Manager with Northern Pulp, commented that while he may have concerns about doing partial harvests in certain stand types, he readily recognizes the value of the training.
“We buy a significant amount of standing stumpage for our operations from private woodlot owners. We are confident that this training will give contractors the skills to undertake any harvest type that the owner is looking for,” said Yuill.
This page and all contents ©1996-2015 Logging and Sawmilling Journal (L&S J) and TimberWest Journal.