BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
As the transition to managed forests accelerates, there are opportunities to implement strategies to grow forests that are more resilient to changing climate, better reflect public expectations for biodiversity and habitat development, while enhancing the economic benefit to the forest community and Canada by expanding wood fibre volume, and enhancing forest health while reducing risks and diversifying forest product values.
In other words, the term “sustainability” has a much wider meaning than simply managing future forests for consistent and predictable volumes of commercial wood fibre. Going forward, it must also reflect the values of quality, diversity and variety to address major drivers of change, those being climate, environmental and social well-being, and economic value.
As companies and forest planners develop their forest management and reforestation plans, there is strong demand for guidance to adopt novel practices to achieve the best possible outcomes in these areas—and it is available.
Legacy and demonstration sites developed by the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC), Canadian Forest Service, forest industry and their partners over the past 60 years offer a wide variety of strategies, tools, research documents and demonstration sites at an operational level that can provide that guidance, with the goal of developing more resilient, sustainable and diverse forests long into the future. There is also the opportunity to potentially capture more commercial wood fibre over a shorter time frame.
A considerable amount of this R & D has focused on natural and assisted reforestation and modified harvest systems aimed at more selective harvesting, capturing higher values and volumes of wood fibre, and maintaining partial forest cover and mixed species, all working toward greater forest health and product diversity.
Let’s consider a few examples of some of the opportunities available to address the issues of climate, environmental and social well-being, and economic change.
On the issue of a changing climate, the development of future managed forests will not only have an important role to play in mitigating the catastrophic impacts of wildfires, droughts, and the proliferation of insects and pathogens, but also to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Participation in the federal government’s Two Billion Tree program is already available to forest managers in addressing natural disturbance, forest regeneration and expanded afforestation.
Legacy and historic demonstration sites show that adopting novel forest management practices for a changing climate can also deliver economic dividends.
For example, historically, the forest has supplied the raw material for building materials, pulp, and paper products. Now, it is also an important resource for raw materials to generate renewable energy, clean energy, and developing bioproducts like bioplastic and nanotechnologies. While recovery of renewable “opportunity residues” has the potential to lower GHG emissions in the forest, companies can also increase their fibre recovery by up to 20 per cent by pursuing developing green energy markets and other bioproducts with these residuals.
In terms of reforestation, forest companies, in establishing managed forests, are already benefiting from significant gains made over the past 35 to 40 years in nursery practices enhancing seedling quality, consistency, stock options and effective container stock handling from greenhouse to field planting. Advances also include the selection process for accessing quality seed and seed sources in close proximity to final use and the tracking and handling of seed resources and vitality. This coupled with effective site preparation and vegetation management practices, informed through historic demonstrations and studies, guides present and future applications and opportunities.
“We can put plantations on developed production trajectories relative to the deployed management application and bio-geoclimatic characteristics of the sites, providing them with a growth trajectory forecast that relates to previous experience, moving from a natural forest system to a managed forest system,” says Derek Sidders, Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer at CWFC.
Boreal mixedwood management, combining natural regeneration of root sucker-oriented hardwoods (poplar species) and light tolerant to mid-tolerant softwoods (white spruce) have also proven to deliver multiple values and options for habitat, risk reduction and new product options. Mixedwood management options also include understorey planting of softwoods in mature poplar/aspen stands, understorey protection of softwoods while recovering mature hardwood overstories and selective site prep and planting of softwoods in naturally regenerating hardwood stands.
And there are also considerable benefits of mixedwood combinations over monocultures as a de-risking strategy, as it provides the benefit of a diverse, uneven aged forest, while also providing the social benefits of wildfire risk reduction, biodiversity, enhanced soil fertility, and good water resource management.
Sidders emphasizes that both reforestation and afforestation have important roles to play to achieve overall, long term forest sustainability.
“Afforestation gives us the ability to expand the forest, which gives us another notch in our belt as it relates to managing for a changing climate,” he says.
For more information about accessing developmental legacy sites, contact Derek Sidders at [email protected].
On the Cover:
The last several years have been busy for B.C.’s Lizzie Bay Logging. In that time, in addition to diligently carrying out active logging activities during COVID, the company has become joint owner of a custom sawmilling business, acquired a towboating company, launched a concrete company—and started a tree services business. Read all about the company’s successful diversification beginning on page 12 of this issue. (Cover photo courtesy of Lizzie Bay Logging)
Filling the need for fallers
There’s a shortage of certified fallers in B.C.—but fallers in training like Melie de Jonge are helping to fill that need, with the help of veteran faller—and certified instructor—Richard Butler.
Playing defense in forestry game
Veteran B.C. logger Clint Carlson is playing defense to weather today’s skewed business environment in the forest industry.
B.C.’s Lizzie Bay Logging is still very focused on logging, but is also finding success in diversifying its business.
Solid formula for sawmill survival
Strong faith, no debt and diversification have all helped Mardis Forest Products survive in turbulent times.
Pivoting to pre-finished products
Ontario’s Muskoka Timber Mills has made a successful market pivot to custom, pre-finished wood products, rebuilding after a devastating mill fire.
Tapping into an under-utilized fibre resource
A Haida-owned company in B.C. is working with under-utilized fibre, harvested sustainably, along with a custom sawmill operation, to produce value added wood products.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, is a story from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC).
The Last Word
Tony Kryzanowski notes that West Fraser Timber is investing in the future as Canadian softwood lumber producers face a tough year ahead, after some pretty flush times during COVID.