Building BETTER FORESTS
BC forest company Lignum is taking a leadership role in forest planning with its Better Forest Mandate.
By Jim Stirling
This year, BC based forest company Lignum Ltd will further expand its landscape wide knowledge base and continue to forge a leadership role in forest management planning. Lignum's Better Forest Mandate plan addresses the long-term sustainability of the total environment on land it manages, the stability of communities and the competitiveness of the company. The independently owned forest company became the first in British Columbia to sign an Innovative Forest Practices Agreement (IFPA) with the provincial government in 1997. The Better Forest Mandate is the plan that evolved from the IFPA and other existing programs to guide forest management for the next 200 years. The IFPA covers 610,000 hectares of Lignum's operating areas around its Williams Lake base.
It includes a total of two Timber Supply Areas, four forest districts, eight Cariboo Chilcotin Land Use Plan sub zones and 23 landscape units. The management techniques will reflect the diversity of the landscape from the pine forests of the Chilcotin Plateau to Douglas fir stands east of the Fraser River. But the guiding philosophy of maintaining and enhancing the long-term health of the overall forest habitat remains the same. Lignum's Better Forest Mandate positions the company well for meeting the Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) principles for certification. Levels of consultation with other forest users have well exceeded what licensees require. Communicating its plans publicly and assimilating feedback is a continuing facet of the mandate and some key partnerships have been established with First Nations groups.
Lignum has also received good cooperation on understanding and implementing its strategies from other agencies like the ministries of forests, environment lands and parks and Forest Renewal BC "The concept is one thing, but you have to make it happen on the ground," says David Conly, Lignum's senior forester, enhanced planning. Better Forest Mandate planning begins on a strategic level making use of computer modeling before moving to the landscape level, says Conly. The landscape and stand level planning leads to harvesting scheduling, he adds. "The focus is on habitat conservation in a way that's less constraining than in the past," he continues. "If we look after biodiversity and habitat requirements, it will produce an equal or better timber supply." The way to accomplish that is being mindful of the natural ways forests have landscape values through mapping and inventories.
For example, ecosystem mapping - including identifying key range areas for caribou and mule deer - a vegetation resources inventory, fish and fish habitat assessments and visual landscape inventories have or are being undertaken. Pilot projects are planned and will be monitored to ensure management objectives are being met. Changes learned from the monitoring will be incorporated into the Better Forest Mandate principles, keeping the whole process dynamic. Agrowth and yield inventory component has identified 175 natural stands in clusters of three, 30 metre squares to be monitored as permanent sample plots for 30 years.
The IFPA provides an opportunity to identify areas where timber growth can be enhanced and where investments to that end can be focused. Other operational ground trials examine California bighorn sheep migration, commercial mushroom cultivation potentials, riparian corridors and cavity nesting bird requirements. "We want to practice management changes on sound principles based on valid data and we get that through monitoring," says Conly. And that monitoring is contained within a framework, he adds. Another study looks at wildlife species which share common needs for part of their life cycles. Areas where wet lands and the forest meet is an example. "We can manage for that interface and maintain that habitat throughout the landscape."
The mountain pine beetle epidemic in the region is having an impact on the forest and landscape level plans. But the beetles' spread illustrates Lignum's natural and holistic approach to forest management. "When we look at the mountain pine beetle impacts, we essentially see a natural disturbance cycle. By dealing with that 'problem', we're fitting into natural disturbance patterns," Conly says. None of this carefully considered and conservative approach to forestland management comes without a price.
Conly estimates Lignum's expenditures on its IFPA and initiatives funded by Forest Renewal BC total $4.5 million to $5 million a year. But that has to be measured against the considerable benefits anticipated on the other side of the equation, including an increase in biodiversity conservation, increased timber availability and the creation of up to 130 jobs, nearly a quarter of them for First Nations people. Lignum strongly believes its pioneering Better Forest Mandate approach can be just a beginning. However, the company hopes other licensees will follow its lead thereby multiplying the benefits across the province. And that would be the real payback
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