A rare opportunity: Single-tree selection harvesting on Vancouver Island (video)

Rod Bealing and Dave Barker standing beside a stack of logs as they watch a feller buncher

Dave Barker shows Rod Bealing around a Managed Forest property on southern Vancouver Island.

When opportunity knocks, we answer. That’s why, when Dave Barker invited us to visit a private Managed Forest on southern Vancouver Island, for the rare opportunity to see single-tree selection harvesting, we yanked on our boots, donned our hard hats, grabbed our cameras and leapt at the chance.

Dave’s managed the property since 1979. He knows everything there is to know about it. He says they’re ecologically lucky. The Coastal Western Hemlock zone is wetter and cooler than the Coastal Douglas-fir zone. This means, instead of a pure fir forest, they have a significant, healthy Red Cedar understory. With thinning, the forest will evolve, over the next fifty years, into a mixed fir/cedar stand.

The strategy on the property is to manage for a combination of forestry and recreational use. While fir poles are their focus, they produce close to 40 products – 5 cedar, 2 maple, 2 alder and about 30 fir grades – for 4 different suppliers. All the while, maintaining the wilderness esthetic and conservation values important to the owner. The silvicultural system they use combines small patch clear-cut and single-tree selection harvesting.

Not only is single-tree selection harvesting a rare event, but using a feller buncher in the process is particularly unusual. Of course, it’s not about the machine, it’s about the operator. In this case, it’s about Bill.

The video above shows the finesse, grace and ease with which Bill maneuvers the feller buncher through the forest. The machine’s gentle tracks have little or no impact on the forest floor and cause minimal soil disturbance.

Like the harvester-processor we saw Dale operating, the feller buncher is made by Madill and built right here on Vancouver Island.

Thanks again to Dave and Bill for showing us around.

For more photos of the property, and the feller buncher, check out our Facebook page.

“Yep, this is my office” — At Work in B.C.’s Forests

Meet Dale. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Dale makes his living in B.C.’s forests. That’s right, he works in the woods. Dale harvests trees. He loves what he does and he does it well.

We ran into Dale at his office: a harvester-processor in a mixed stand forest on a piece of private land on Vancouver Island. Dale was happy to show us around. With damp coastal air against our skin and mud under our boots, we jumped at the chance to take a closer look.

The video below shows Dale at work — an impressive display of precision, timing and technique. With each push of a button, Dale makes a decision about the value of the logs he’s processing.

Along with the hum of the diesel engine, you’ll notice (or you will now) that the machine Dale operates, made by Madill, is built right here on Vancouver Island. Sam Madill founded the company in Nanaimo, B.C. in 1911. One hundred years later, Madill machinery is now built by Nicholson Manufacturing in Sidney, B.C.

Thanks to Dale for taking the time to give us a tour. Much appreciated.

You can see more photos on our Facebook page.

5 Tips to Help Capture the Best Value From Your Logs

Next up at the PMFLC forest practices workshop? A trip to TimberWest’s Shoal Island log sort, nestled beside the bustling Catalyst pulp mill in majestic Crofton, B.C.

Under the thoughtful tutelage of Geoff Martin, a log marketer from TimberWest, workshop participants learned about marketing, manufacturing, sorting and handling logs.

A detour past the “sin bin” quickly revealed just how important it is to take good care of your logs. Ignorance can lead to disrespected, damaged and mistreated logs that nobody wants.

Here are Geoff Martin’s Top 5 Tips to Help Capture the Best Value From Your Logs (or, how to avoid the “sin bin”):

1. Educate yourself and work with experts. There’s a lot to know and learn about harvesting, handling, manufacturing and marketing timber. The more you know the better position you’re in to get the best value for your logs.

2. Know where your timber is going before you harvest it. Different markets require different log lengths. Find your buyer and ask their preferred length before you harvest your timber. Harvesting to match the buyer’s preference gets the best value for your logs.

3. Don’t leave your logs on the ground for too long. Think of your logs as “spoilable” fresh produce. The longer your logs lie on the ground the greater the chance bugs, water, rot and weather will cause damage and deteriorate the value of your logs.

4. Don’t put your red alder trees through a log processor. Processors are efficient, but they easily cause damage to red alder logs. In the end, the damage to the logs decreases their value and negates the efficiency of the processor. A chainsaw is a much better idea for maintaining the value of your red alder logs.

5. Spend the time to love your logs! It takes up to 100 years to grow a marketable tree. That’s a lot of time. It makes sense you’d spend some of that time making sure you get the best value for your logs.

Check out the video below for a closer look at the Shoal Island log sort.

Thanks to Geoff Martin for his time, his knowledge and his passion for logs.

Did we miss anything? Leave a comment below: your own tips, advice and helpful hints for maintaining the best value for your logs.

Happy Trees, Healthy Forests: PFLA Visits the North Cowichan Community Forest

A big thanks to the Private Managed Forest Land Council (PFMLC) for an informative and enlightening forestry workshop, held September 17, 2011 in the Cowichan Valley.

The PFLA was grateful for the opportunity to connect with private managed forest owners from around southern Vancouver Island: Shawnigan Lake, Salt Spring Island, Thetis Island, Galiano Island, the Saanich Peninsula and beyond.

First stop: the North Cowichan Community Forest where Darrel Frank generously shared information, tips, best practices and overall forestry wisdom.

Darrell’s key message: Have a clear vision for what you want your forestland to look like and hire good, reliable people to do the work.

The mid-day tour of Maple Mountain proved an excellent opportunity for workshop participants to network, exchange ideas, ask thoughtful question, and engage in lively discussion on topics as wide-ranging as:

  • Long-term forest management planning
  • Advance timber marketing
  • Harvesting: falling and processing, log sorting and trucking
  • Road building (and unbuilding)
  • The art and science of culvert design and installation
  • Identifying and managing root rot
  • Planting, pruning, brushing, weeding
  • Fuel management and wildfire prevention
  • Managing minor crop species (e.g. White Pine)
  • Managing invasive species (Scotch broom)
  • And of course, the deer: What to do about the deer?

For a closer look, check out the video below.

Thanks to Stuart Macpherson and Phil Blanchard for organizing another successful PMFLC workshop, and thanks again to Darrel Frank for the informative tour.

First Stop on the PFLA Field Tour: Tugwell Creek Honey Farm

The renowned PFLA field tour took place on June 15th, 2011. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here are a few highlights to whet your appetite for next year.

Imagine a forestry charter bus, an immensely diverse group of occupants, and a rural winding road on the west coast of Vancouver Island. First stop: Tugwell Creek Honey Farm & Meadery.

Owner, Bob Liptrot, is a self-proclaimed lover of cut blocks. It’s true. Where others see cut trees, Bob sees a perfect habitat for bees.

A beekeeper for close to 50 years, Bob shared loads of information about bees, honey, mead and what makes for good beekeeping.

He’s excited about the possibility of beekeepers and forest landowners working together for mutual benefit: the beekeepers get access to choice conditions for excellent beekeeping, and the landowners get another pair of attentive eyes on their property – a win-win.

Informative and inspiring, this leg of the tour also proved tantalizing – co-owner Dana Comte offered up samples of honey, mead and wine in the tasting room (it was 5:00 p.m. somewhere).

Thanks Bob and Dana!

Want to know more about Vancouver Island bees?
Check out the video link below:

Talking About the Bees: The PFLA Visits Tugwell Creek Honey Farm

Let us know what you think!

Next Stop on the PFLA Field Tour: Van Isle Tree Farm

Our second stop on the PFLA 2011 forest field tour: Van Isle Tree Farm where we were graciously received by the Robertson family.

With over 110 hectares of forestland, there was a lot to see.

An impressive diversity of species: copper beech planted in 1996, giant sequoia planted in 1997, redwoods, oak, arbutus, and tales of eucalyptus (over 25 varieties) attempted, but in the end, lost to father winter.


Strolling through the forest, there was plenty of time to glean knowledge as the Robertsons shared stories of land management and reforestation. Spirited conversations emerged about wild life, paint ball, burning, harvesting, firewood, trespassing, and of course, the deer – what to do about the deer?

Wrapping up this leg of the tour, Ken Robertson was presented with an award for outstanding commitment to, and demonstration of, private forest stewardship in British Columbia.

Along with a plaque, the PFLA was pleased to present Mr. Robertson with the only meaningful gift to give a guy who has over 100 hectares of land, an excavator and a passion for planting trees – 45 gallons of diesel and some hydraulic fluid.

Congratulations Ken!

Thanks again to the Robertsons – Ken, his wife Dorothy, and their two sons, Blair and Warren – for your hospitality.

Check out this video of Ken Robertson doing what he loves best: