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Caribou Friendly Harvesting

Summary: A working research project in BC's Chilcotin Plateau explores new ways to successfully integrate harvesting with habitat management for woodland caribou.

By Jim Stirling
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to reprint.

Integrating timber harvesting with habitat management for woodland caribou has meant turning challenge into opportunity in the Itcha-Ilgachuz Special Resource Development Zone high on the Chilcotin Plateau about 260 km west of Williams Lake, BC. Small tracked carriers with various processing and bunching heads are partially harvesting blocks cut-to-length style to retain prescribed percentages of canopy.

The goal is to maintain sources of arboreal and terrestrial lichen, an essential food source for caribou. The four-year research project is in the operating area of Riverside Forest Products Limited of Wil liams Lake. Clusko Logging Enterprises Ltd. is the contractor investing in new equipment to make the harvesting/wildlife system work.

Other partners and interested groups in the project include the provincial ministeries of forests and environment, First Nations groups, guides and trappers, ranchers, the hospitalit y i ndustry and the public . Riverside has a successful joint venture partnership with the Alexis Creek Band, and its Tsi Del Del roadside logging operation is now wholly mechanical. The caribou seasonally roam across a range of country from wetland complexes to volcanic cones, in response to their sur-vival instincts. It's estimated a healthy and stable caribou population of 1,600 animals resides in the region.

Habitat, predation, weather and poaching are four key consid-erations with caribou management. Access is a major concern in the equation, points out Brian Hansen, Riverside's area supervisor. And because caribou go their own sweet way, habitat management and accesss control may end up taking place across a range of landscapes.

The company has a gate to deter access in one sensitive area, and blocks side roads after use wherever possible. "It's a learning curve. We're going to have to continually adapt as we go," says Hansen.

At present, it's lichen first and forest management implications next, includ-ing silvicultural options. Last winter's costs are being tabulated but Hansen hopes for improvement from the previous year's results.

The public land-use decision-making process in the Chilcotin has already defe rred areas from timber harvesting in favour of caribou habitat. Riverside has been forced to abandon its original long-term development plans.

It also meant a scramble for wood for Clusko Logging. Hansen credits the forest service's district office in Alexis Creek with helping allocate alternative stop-gap fibre sources. "We're managing areas left over from the deferrals. The key is how to integrate caribou habitat management and timber harvesting. If everyone involved has that mindset it will work ," he adds.

In the winter of 1994/95, one research site was 30 per cent harvested, leaving large islands of wood. Two other blocks were 70 per-cent harvested retaining small islands, as wood was processed at the stump and by forwarding. One of the concerns with arbo-real lichen is that too big an opening creates too much humidity and wind scarring. The 1995/966 research block included a 14.8-hectare control; a 17.7-hectare block with 30 per-cent removal using a forwarder; 15.3 hectares with 50 per-cent removal by skidder and 16.3 hectares with 50 per-cent removal by forwarder.

Hansen hopes summer trials will be permitted. "We're fortunate to have lots of summer ground." The resource creates a challenge. Most of the wood is Lodgepole pine, in even, aged stands that have naturally regenerated after an historical history of forest fires.

The pine is generally small-diameter with plenty of sweep and crook. Growing sites are often poor and dry but they are generally level. In a reversal of the norm, the higher the elevation, the better the tree quality here because of more moisture and nu t ri e n t retention, observes Hansen.

Volumes in Riverside's bug kill incentive licence contains stands of 35 m 3 /ha but are more typ-icall y 70 to 100 m 3 /ha. The company's other regional licence ranges between 130 and 200 m 3 /ha. And at the 1500-metre elevation of the research block the timber is as good as it gets around 220m 3 /ha.

Riverside management examined the stands for extracting the best lumber with the least waste at the mill end. Wood is har-vested in 16' sawlog lengths along with pulp-quality wood. Clusko Logging is experimenting with an interesting range of equipment.

The first Timbco 415 non-tilting machine in Canada was fitted with a Pierce HTH 20 processing head. A John Deere 653 had an 18'' Pierce Logmax processing head. A Timberjack 608 feller buncher was coupled with a 18" Koehring Waterous hot saw. The forwarder was a Timberjack 1210, which was scaling out about 13.5m 3 in 16' wood.

"We 're trying different heads to see what's best for our applications, explains Arnold Bremner, Clusko 's president . He's looking forward to more work i n g time to assess the new machines' performances. "It's still too early to tell." So far, however, some things are clear.

"For this cut-to-length system we need low-ground- pressure machines (they're all in the 4/5 psi range) with virtually no tail swing. We need to control the size of our trails and openings." Trails are usually 4 m wide. Blocks of 50 per-cent removal translate into openings every 200 m.

The plan is to keep ground disturbance and residual stem damage down. Most of the wood is around 12'' diameter, ranges up to 18 '' and 3'' tops. Bremner says the Timbco was working quite well during its first two months. " We 're probably doing about 100 cubic metres per 10-hour shift, depending on timber."

The JD 653E was one of the first in BC with a processing head. It was working in lodgepole pine ranging from 3'' top to 18'' butt with much of the wood in the 12' ' -bu t t - d i a m e t e r range. The block was at an elevation of 1500 m about 260 km west of Williams Lake. Brenmer says the machine's ability to fall and then process at the stump is important, as Riverside wants 16'-long sawlogs. At our visit, he had only had the 653E in service for two weeks, not enough time to fully assess it, in particular to see what its production c ap abilities will be once the operator training curve is completed. He does note, however, that the machine's low ground pressure and subsequent gentle fo o t p rint complies with the BC Forest Practices Code and protects terrestial lichen.

The generally flat ground suits a non-tilting machine, and the 653E's minimal tailswing allows manoeuverability on narrow trails and reduces damage to stand-ing stems. Bremner says the computerized Pierce measuring system and the chain saw blade is consistently cutting to within an inch on every stem.

The approximately 55,000 m 3 Clusko is harvesting cut-to-length represents a completely different approach for his company, s ays Bremner. It is considerably more expensive and slower than conventional systems. Operator training is time consuming and supervision costs have increased.

"It takes a lot of thinking for us and our operators ," he adds. "We hope to develop the flexibility to take this system and put it into productive use conventionally." Bremner's conventional side contributes about 210,000 m 3 per year. Equipment includes a Tigercat 853 buncher; three link belts with Denharco DH550 processing heads; a JD 690 with Denharco 550 head; two sizes of JD grapple skidders and a Cat EL200 heel boom for decking wood for processors with less damage and gre at e r efficiency. Bremner has been a logging contractor for 10 years and was in the log-hauling business before that.

He still owns seven tridem hay rack configuration trailers. The hay racks pack less than some configura-tions (45 to 48m 3 in dry wood; 42m 3 in green) but are more versatile with the right road layout.

The use of hay rack trailers gave Bremner an idea, and he's not reticent about trying new things. "You don't have to load the trailers with the hay rack system so you don't need a large loader. We made a loader from a JD 590 excavator."

He put a forestry cab on it to raise it about 28'', close to the level of conventional loaders, and improved operator visibility around the bulkhead. He also installed a Rotobec by pass and 60'' grapple and added 5' on the boom for more lifting.

The result is a lower ground-pressure machine than larger loaders, more operational efficiencies and fast haydraulics. It can also spread or pile brush as required.

Riverside's Hansen is planning two other areas for canopy retention/partial cutting trials in the next two years. Both areas will be about 350 ha, including untouched con-trol areas. Maintaining habitat for both arboreal and terrestrial lichen remains the goal. Removal volumes will likely be in the 30 to 50 per-cent range with irregular cut-block boundaries to reduce blowdown.

April 1996 articles - Forest Expo Show Guide

  • New Deere Buncher
    Eastern and western contractors assess the new 653E.
  • Riverside Forest Products
    A $17 million upgrade produces a 12-percent recovery gain
  • OSB Fast Track
    Ainsworth opens its second OSB plant in as many years.
  • Caribou-Friendly Harvesting
    A look at a working study in BC's Chilcotin region.
  • Eye on the Orient
    With a confusing Timber West/Fletcher Challenge ownership behind it, the Elk Falls lumber mill invests $16 million to retool for Asian markets.
  • Unmasking the Eco-Myths
    Ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick works these days to counter the forestry myths and misinformation put forth by radical environmentalists. Most don't have a clue what they are talking about, says Moore.
  • Ancient Enterprise Still Thriving
    The oak forests and processing industry of France predate the Romans. LSJ's peripatetic editor Reg Barclay takes us inside a highly efficient plant in Burgundy, France.
  • Diploma Mill with a Difference
    A Crestbrook Forest Industries program that combines on-site industrial training with high school completion courses is well-accepted by employees.
  • Marketplace: Supplier NewsLine
    Equipment information including the Implemax Equipment skid steer grapple, the Dynaweld detachable trailer model, the Imac PowerSwivel, the Morbark Model 1300 Tub Grinder, and more.
    This month: Kiln controls including Drystar Computer Kiln Controller, Winkiln Control System, Custom Dry Kiln PLC and more.
  • New Era in Bush Communications
    Forest companies working in remote locations will welcome TMI Communications' new mobile satellite communications network.

Return to the April 1996 - Table of Contents

Last modified 6/10/96

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