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THE EDGECats Eye Logging and Sawmilling

Adopting novel legacy forest practices—a history of applied technology and development led by CWFC/CFS


Over the past four decades, the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and Canadian Forest Service (CFS) Forest Technology Development Group—working in conjunction with forest companies, governments, and other partners throughout Canada—have amassed a large repository of legacy trial and demonstration sites featuring realistic and practitioner-oriented research.

Typically, these sites take conventional forest management practices and test the application of advanced practices, to evaluate and validate the biological forest response. The goal is to develop practical approaches and affordable tools that practitioners can apply as they manage activities in the commercial forest. The potential exists to actually enhance natural forest response in some instances when some of these economical practices are applied.

These sites also include long term technology development and transfer venues that demonstrate actual practices to practitioners. They have been the location for numerous technical field workshops, tours, active demonstrations and conference field trips.

The Technology Development and Knowledge Transfer team at CWFC, CFS and industry are deeply invested in protecting these legacy sites as they feature ongoing research and outcomes from specific forest management practices initiated through input from industry itself.

“These sites really focus on applied field trials, tests and research studies that incorporate economic, ecological and technical objectives addressing major forest issues,” says Derek Sidders, Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer at CWFC. “That’s the real essence of these sites—to take issues identified by the forest industry/community at a given time at a scaled level, looking at long term implications while also providing a significant short term benefit. What’s demonstrated on these sites is also operationally adoptable by industry.”

CWFC/CFS, in co-operation with its partners, is now engaged in packaging this information. It is using novel tools such as drones, fixed cameras, web-based wireless technologies, and user-friendly media to bring this vast library of knowledge to the next generation of forest management planners, researchers, government agencies, and industry, as well as those researching the impacts of a changing climate on Canada’s commercial forest.

As industry and governments confront the implications on Canada’s forest resource of a changing climate and fibre supply, the ability to tap into the knowledge accumulated within these novel legacy forest management practices research and demonstration sites is invaluable as, for example, they demonstrate the carbon implications of certain enhanced forest management practices.

As shown at the top of this page, the applied research, technology and knowledge transfer focus within these legacy sites are many and varied.

For example, in the final decades of the past century and into the early 2000’s, industry and government believed that it was important to address backlog reforestation in primary areas where significant harvesting was taking place.

“There were some questions as to the quality, results and sustainability of those operations. We’ve found now through our legacy sites that we are able to go beyond what is sustainable from the perspective of natural systems, with the ability to tweak natural systems to maximize yields, ecosystem values, health and so on through the use of adaptive high tech practices,” says Sidders.

New site prep techniques and tools were invented, some by CFS; one example is the Grizz tool patented in 1990 with potential use right across Canada. Another technique and tool involves high speed horizontal mixing, which is like taking the forest and turning it into selective patches of garden mix. Prime movers were adapted and patterns developed to carry out these site prep techniques.

Applying these site prep techniques on legacy sites has resulted in what Sidders describes as a “phenomenal” response, evident on such sites as the 1,000-hectare, Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance (EMEND) project in northern Alberta, which is one of the largest mixed wood development research studies in the world.

Other legacy sites from the Northwest Territories’ Taiga Plains to Manitoba feature the patterning of mixed wood management, demonstrating partial harvesting systems, selective harvesting, species selection, and patterning to remove unhealthy, dead, dying or disturbed material while converting it into wood products and enhancing the distribution within the stand and distance among the trees. Again, these demonstrated practices have delivered very positive results while showing how to minimize site disturbance.

Some legacy sites also demonstrate the value of commercial thinning in high density pure stands of primarily white spruce for health and enhanced growth.

For more information related to CWFC/CFS technology development legacy sites, contact Derek Sidders at [email protected] or Tim Keddy at [email protected].