By Jim Stirling
Bugs and fires.
Insect infestations and wildfires in the British Columbia Interior have dominated the forest industry’s headlines for the last couple of years. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the same two inter-related byproducts of a warming climate are influencing the on-the-ground management decisions undertaken in the Williams Lake Community Forest (WLCF).
Dealing with an expanding Douglas fir beetle infestation while simultaneously instituting wildfire mitigation strategies are actions designed to protect and enhance the forest in what has become a valued and well-used asset in Williams Lake.
The community forest represents a partnership between the Williams Lake Indian Band and the City of Williams Lake. The community forest recently completed its initial five year management and stewardship plan.
The WLCF consist of two distinct blocks. The Flat Rock or NeSextsine block between the Fraser River and Williams Lake in B.C.’s central Cariboo region covers about 9,000 hectares. The Peskwenkwinex or Potato Mountain block covers about 23,000 hectares east of the city of Williams Lake in the Horsefly area. Combined, the two blocks support an annual harvest of 40,000 cubic metres.
About 98 per cent of the 200,000 cubic metres harvested during the WLCF’s first five year program was sold into the Williams Lake and Cariboo market, reported Hugh Flinton who with Kent Watson represent the C&P Management Group Inc. Much of that timber from the community forest—harvested by locally based logging contractors and log haulers—was delivered to West Fraser and Tolko Industries, the two major forest companies with lumber manufacturing facilities in Williams Lake. But additional WLCF volumes were used by other local wood consumers including both large and small scale log home and timber frame construction companies.
C&P Management was appointed by the WLCF board to assume direction of the community forest at the end of 2017. The C&P Management team took over the WLCF’s helm from a retiring Ken Day of the UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest. Flinton, who is a lifetime Williams Lake resident, had previously worked with Day in the community forest. “We’ve had a good level of continuity (with the management),” he said.
Williams Lake area residents have good reason to remember the summer of 2017. The threat and smoke from wildfires surrounded the city for weeks, and at one point in July of that year, up to 24,000 people in the region were subject to evacuation orders or alerts. In the summer of 2018, hot, dry and windy conditions returned but mercifully not with the numbers or intensity of fires the previous year. Flinton credits the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department and community members who took fast initial action on a fire near the community forest’s Potato Mountain flank, and succeeded in restricting it to about 20 to 30 hectares in size.
Fuel treatment actions around the community forest’s borders are continuing. “They don’t prevent wildfires but they do mitigate risks,” explained Flinton. The fuel treatment activities can buy valuable time for firefighters and planners. “And hopefully they can then manage the fire more efficiently.”
Managing more efficiently is also an appropriate term for dealing with the Douglas fir bark beetle within the WLCF. But the containment situation is further complicated as the beetles move into fir-leading stands in old growth management areas, which provide prime winter habitat for mule deer. Standards in such areas require tree cover for the deer, which it turns out, are fussy eaters. They prefer needles from higher up in the trees and wait for them to drop from the canopy by wind or snow conditions, outlined Flinton. Not caring too much for the lower growing needles, however, assists overall stand management. “We try to reduce fuels close to the ground, which limits a fire’s ability to climb into the canopy and spread.”
Meanwhile the Douglas fir attacked and killed by the beetles are subject to a program of single tree salvage and removal. “We anticipate removing about 20,000 beetle-attacked and killed trees in the next year,” predicted Flinton. Harvester/forwarder machine combinations tackle the wood in lower elevations with hand falling on the steeper terrain.
The events of the last couple of years have helped local residents understand and appreciate the work going on next door in their community forest. “We enjoy an extremely good level of collaboration with the community.” The WLCF’s recreation sites and trails are extensively used by local groups and organizations, including an active mountain biking community. “We also have about 200 school kids coming through the community forest each year from kindergarten to grade eight and nines seeking work experience,” he added.
Money raised through log harvesting is distributed back into the community through the support of local groups and organizations which successfully apply for funding, pointed out Flinton. “The WLCF employs 20 to 50 full time equivalent positions a year ranging from work in forest planning through harvesting to silviculture. It makes the community forest a significant generator of revenue which remains in the Williams Lake area.”
The WLCF has received an additional benefit from an unexpected source to help counterbalance fibre losses due to insects and fire. Mother Nature has contributed a bountiful cone crop in 2018 to help renew the forest. The same phenomenon is anticipated for 2019.
On the Cover:
From mill loaders to trucks to logging equipment, it will all be featured at the upcoming Canada North Resources Expo, taking place May 24 to 25 in Prince George, B.C. Read all about the show, and who is going to be there, beginning on page 30 of this issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journal, the Official Show Guide (Cover photo of Tolko mill operation by Paul MacDonald).
Strategic sanitation logging—from the air
A targeted sanitation logging program—including heli-logging—of beetle-infected Douglas fir is underway in the B.C. Interior, and it looks like it’s having an impact on controlling the rate of spread of the beetle.
There is a heckuva large log salvage project going on in B.C., but it’s got nothing to do with beetle salvage or fire-salvage—this kind of salvage involves logging green merchantable timber as part of building the massive $10 billion Site C dam in northeastern B.C.
First Nations bridge building—with wildfire wood
A First Nations-owned company in the B.C. Interior, Cariboo Aboriginal Forest Enterprises, is building bridges—and soon will be building homes—with lumber they’re producing from wood burned in a 2017 wildfire.
Protecting a community (forestry) asset
The Williams Lake Community Forest in the B.C. Interior is working to both manage an expanding Douglas fir beetle infestation and put in place wildfire mitigation strategies to protect and enhance what has become a valued and well-used asset.
Pellet plant delivering polished performance
Bringing new manufacturing plants online can be a challenge, but the Smithers Pellet plant in the B.C. Interior is clicking right along, thanks to a team effort on its start-up in late-2018.
Jack of all trades logger
David Craig is truly a jack of all trades when it comes to equipment and logging, doing everything from timber harvesting to log clean-up at a lake for one of B.C’s largest dams.
Finding their logging niche…
Family-owned C&H Logging has found their logging niche in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and these days three generations of the Carter Family are carrying on operations, with safety and sustainability top of mind.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Alberta Innovates and Canadian Wood Fibre Centre.
Official Show Guide — Canada North Resources Expo
As the Official Show Guide, Logging and Sawmilling Journal has the full scoop on the Canada North Resources Expo—coming up May 24 to 25 in Prince George, B.C.—from feature editorial to a site map to the full listing of exhibitors at this great resource industry show.
The Last Word
Columnist Jim Stirling asks the question: Will the forest policy review for the B.C. Interior yield a new vision for the forest industry?