Stand Tending 101: Spacing and Pruning (Part I)

A smart person once said: “In a well-spaced forest, trees grow faster.” The wisdom of this phrase was parsed out for us on a recent trip to Sallas Forest on Sidney Island.

Graciously hosted by Peter Pearse, we caught up with Paul Nimmon and his silviculture crew carrying out a juvenile spacing and tree pruning operation.

Because PFLA regularly receives inquiries from forest owners interested in managing their juvenile forest stands, we’ve included a video and some details on the guidelines for the operation we hope you’ll find interesting and informative.

You can watch the video above to hear the hum of the chainsaws, see the stand for yourself, and listen to Paul talk about what they’re up to and why this kind of work is rare these days.

Sallas Forest: Juvenile Spacing and Tree Pruning Guidelines

The owners of Sallas Forest have a clear vision for their forest. In short, the objectives are to promote the forest’s growth and vigour, enhance its biodiversity and encourage aesthetic and recreational values. With this in mind, they laid out the following guidelines for the operation.

Objectives (in order of priority):

  1. Protect and enhance the natural forest ecosystem and, in particular, restore and maintain the biodiversity of the forest.
  2. Stimulate the forest’s growth and vigor.
  3. Enhance the aesthetic qualities of the forest.
  4. Increase the commercial value of the forest

It’s important to note the importance of non-commercial objectives. Special care must be taken to minimize adverse visual impacts.

Priority of trees to be retained (in order):

  1. Old growth trees and snags of all species, including small yew trees, should be retained.
  2. Deciduous trees of all species, providing they have good form, especially oak, arbutus, dogwood, maple, aspen and cottonwood.
  3. All shrubs, notably ocean spray, vine maple, willow and wild rose, unless they are suppressing trees of higher priority (listed above).
  4. In stands dominated by Douglas fir (i.e. most stands on Sidney sland) conifers of other species, most commonly cedar and Grand fir.

Given the above priorities, the individual trees to be retained should be those with the best form and size.

The two photos below, of the same forest type with similar aged trees, illustrate the benefits of juvenile spacing. The stand in the upper photo was spaced and pruned in its juvenile stage; the stand in the lower photo was not.

forest stand on Sidney Island illustrates value of juvenile spacing

Sallas Forest, Sidney Island, B.C.— forest stand spaced and pruned in its juvenile stage.

forest stand Sidney Island BC

Sallas Forest, Sidney Island, B.C.— forest stand not spaced and pruned in its juvenile stage.

Thanks to Peter Pearse for taking the time to show us around. Please stayed tuned for more on our trip to Sallas Forest, as well as “Stand Tending 101: Pruning and Spacing (Part II)” where we share more advice and insights from our favourite resource Managing Your Woodland: A Non-forester’s Guide to Small-scale Forestry in British Columbia.

Thanks for the Lift!—Trees (millions of ‘em) at Arbutus Grove Nursery

Everything starts somewhere—ideas, automobiles, toaster ovens, plaid pants, even trees. All of the trees planted here on the coast of British Columbia owe their start to the skill, care, expertise and dedication of nursery workers.

Arbutus Grove Nursery, Pacific Regeneration Technologies (PRT) and Sylvan Vale Nursery, all provide great products and service, but in mid-December, PFLA needed trees in a hurry (the Santa Clause parade!) so we swung by our closest source, Arbutus Grove Nursery, to pick up some seedlings (a big hit by the way).

Coastal-Douglas fir tree seedlings

Impressed by the hustle and bustle of the winter lift, we couldn’t resist inviting ourselves back again for a closer look (armed with digital cameras and hand-held video devices).

Thanks to Nathaniel Stoffeslma for taking the time to tour us around their North Saanich nursery. Arbutus Grove is a family-owned and operated business established in 1981 when Nathaniel’s father planted their first crop of trees in a lone half-greenhouse. Today, the nursery boasts seven guttered-greenhouses, of various sizes, and a reputation for growing Coastal Douglas-fir well—“It’s a difficult species to grow, but we do a pretty good job at it.”

When the forest industry is healthy, business is healthy.

Over the years, Arbutus Grove Nursery has adapted and persevered to survive uncertain economic times in the coastal forest industry. During the recession in 2008, business plummeted — they saw 60% of a standard normal year. Thankfully, they were able to recover. Other nurseries in B.C. weren’t so lucky.

Holding a Coastal Douglas-fir seedling

Along with shifts in capacity, they’ve noticed a significant change in expectation, “30 years ago foresters expected 50% of trees to succeed in the field.” Today, customers at Arbutus Grove Nursery expect much more from their trees. Nathaniel estimates their trees have a growing success rate of close to 95%.

A common misconception about Arbutus Grove Nursery is the perception that they grow trees for ornamental use. Nathaniel explains, “People don’t understand how thorough the reforestation industry is—probably 35 million trees are planted, every year, here on the coast. Across B.C., it’s probably closer to 200 million trees, every year. That’s 100,000 times more trees planted each year than the ornamental tree industry.”

The planting cycle

As a contract grower, customers provide the seeds (generally) and Arbutus Grove Nursery grows the seedlings to the customers’ specifications. Coastal-Douglas fir is the most popular species they grow, but they also grow other coastal species like Western redcedar.

Orders are placed in September, October and November and seeds are stratified and prepared for sowing in February, March and April to coincide with the summer/fall planting season and the spring planting season.

Working in the lifting shed at Arbutus Grove Nursery

The winter lift is the busiest time of year at Arbutus Grove Nursery. Seedlings are lifted, in December and January, when they’re at their ideal condition for planting and then preserved in cold storage until the spring planting season begins. To accomplish this, they employ about 70 people, on two shifts, from 7 a.m. until midnight.

Working in the lifting shed at Arbutus Grove Nursery

The lifting shed is the epicenter of this bustling operation. Millions (yes, millions) of seedlings, transferred from trays, travel along conveyor belts to be checked for quality, wrapped in packs of five or ten, packed into boxes and stacked onto pallets before being transported to cold storage where their perfect condition is preserved until the planting season begins.

Boxes of tree seedlings headed for cold storage

This year, Arbutus Grove Nursery will produce about 50,000 boxes of seedlings, that’s approximately 12 million trees. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60 to 70 percent of those seedlings will be planted on private forest land.

Thanks again to Nathaniel, and the staff at Arbutus Grove Nursery, for showing us around. Check out the video above to see for yourself, or browse through the photo album on our Facebook page.

Water, Harvesting and Reforestation on Private Forest Land (video)

Earlier this year, PFLA had the opportunity to join some of our larger forest owners on a tour as they showed the Private Managed Forest Land Council around their Shawnigan and Koksilah operating areas (on southern Vancouver Island) for a firsthand look at how they steward their land. For those of you who couldn’t join us, we edited together some video footage for your viewing pleasure.


Learning the Logging Life (video)

Hey, check out what we found in the video archives! It’s a 3-minute video all about forestry on Quadra Island, B.C. The video aired as part of a series produced by NBC during the 2010 Olympics.

Let us know if you recognize anyone.

Note: Safety is one of PFLA’s primary concerns. While we think it’s both fun and entertaining to pop wheelies and pull other impressive tricks with a loader, in practice, we neither condone or encourage such actions.

Cowichan Valley Forest Owner Uses Land for Educational, Spiritual and Cultural Purposes

Forest owners in B.C. are as diverse and inspiring as the forests themselves. PFLA has the privilege of representing all of them—from the large to the small, from the coastal to the interior, from the seasoned forester to the novice tree farmer.

In a recent post, you saw first-hand how some of our larger forest owners use planning, assessment and implementation tools to manage their forestry operations. Now, we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Faulkner.

A family physician by profession, Stephen manages 25 hectares of forest land in the Cowichan Valley. The land was harvested just before he purchased it in 1989. Since then, trees have been growing on his property. As the trees grow, Stephen grows more and more fond of them. He’s not so keen to log as he used to be.

It’s not that Stephen’s opposed to logging—it’s what keeps the economy going—but there are times, he believes, when trees, in certain places, have an affordance, a richness, worth more than the timber value of the logs. These days, Stephen primarily uses the land for educational, spiritual and cultural purposes.

For example, the photo above is a riparian area on Stephen’s land used by the Salish people for their ritual bathing. Members of the Cowichan band also use trees from the property for their long house initiations.

A physician by profession, Stephen also takes groups into the forest for counselling. Stephen explains, “people thrive in the forest environment—away from the distractions of modern life.”

Check out the video above to learn more. Thanks for sharing your story, Stephen!

If you have a private forestry story you’d like to tell, we’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below, give us a call or send us an email.

The Delicate Art of Loading Logs onto Trucks (video)

Here it is: another short, snappy video in a series of edited footage from a recent trip to a private managed forest on southern Vancouver Island.

The video above shows Joey, a technician in this orchestra of well-trained harvesting engineers, operating yet another instrument.

First, Dale impressed us with his harvester/processor skills. Then, we saw Bill gracefully maneuvering a feller buncher. After that, Grant showed us around a cable harvesting system, and we got to see Dale (there’s two of them) work magic with a grapple yarder.

Last, but not least, Joey demonstrates the art of stacking logs onto trucks with a loader (also known as a juicer).

It’s worth mentioning again: all the machines these guys operate are built, by Madill, right here on Vancouver Island, and have been since Sam Madill founded the company in 1911.

The logs you see in the video are headed for TimberWest’s Shoal Island log sort.

Thanks to Dave Barker and the workers from Malloch Logging for showing us around.

Visit the PFLA Facebook page to see more photos of Joey operating the loader.

Private Forestry: Who Wants to See a Cable Harvesting System In Action? (video)

Here it is.The long-awaited third clip in our series of short, snappy edited videos from footage of a recent trip (thanks to Dave Barker) to a private managed forest on southern Vancouver Island.

First, we saw single-tree selection harvesting in action. Then, we saw Dale at work in a harvester-processor. And now, we have front row seats for a small-patch clear-cut operation using a cable harvesting system (grapple yarder + mobile backspar). Check out the video below!

Thanks to Dale and Grant from Malloch Logging for showing us around. Visit the PFLA Facebook page to see related photos of Dale and Grant hard at work.

Stay tuned. More videos coming soon!