Workshops & Events

A Successful 2017 Forest Field Tour

TimberWest South Island Logistics Facility

This week, PFLA members enjoyed an informative field tour, with stops at the TimberWest South Island Logistics Facility, the BC Forest Discovery Centre, and the Mesachie Lake Forest Research Facility.

About 25 large and small private forest land owners from throughout BC met in Cowichan Bay for the annual conference and AGM.

The two day event is a chance each year to share expertise, stay abreast of important policy developments, and see inspiring hands-on examples of innovative forest stewardship.

BC Forest Discovery Cent








Mesachie Lake Research Facility


PFLA’s 2017 Forest Field Tour — June 7th in Cowichan Bay, BC

Photo courtesy BC Forest Discovery Centre

This year, the PFLA field tour will be spent in the Cowichan Valley. We’ll have the opportunity to look at some interesting forestry projects in the area, and most importantly, meet the key people involved.

Our tour this year will start bright and early on Wednesday, June 7th with departure from OceanFront Suites at Cowichan Bay.

We’ll visit the BC Forest Discovery Centre, located in Duncan, for a celebration of the history of logging in B.C.

Our next stop will be the BC Forestry Research Station at Mesachie Lake. The station is the provincial centre for research into coastal tree improvement and forest genetic conservation. The station’s nursery staff provide technical expertise and service in growing seedlings to be used in research trials and as rootstock for grafting programs.

And finally we’ll tour of a modern, state-of-the-art timber merchandising and marketing facility in Crofton.

We’ll then head back to OceanFront Suites at Cowichan Bay, just in time for an afternoon cocktail at 5:30, followed by dinner at 6:30.

You can find complete schedule and registration information on the PFLA website.

Or contact us at with any questions.

Cowichan Lake Research Station at Mesachie Lake

To whet your appetite, here are a few highlights from past events:

Sylvan Vale Nursery: From Seed to 8 Million Seedlings — A big PFLA thanks to Sylvan Vale Nursery for their hospitality (did we mention they fed us donuts?) and the informative tour of their nursery …[read more]

“What do you get when you mix engaging presenters, interesting locations, thoughtful participants and favourable weather conditions? Another fantastic field tour!”   … [read more]

Latest News from the PFLA Board

Welcome Ian Delisle

The PFLA Board is pleased to welcome Ian De Lisle as a director. With extensive experience and knowledge of the coastal forest industry, Ian is a valuable addition to the board.

After graduating from BCIT in 1975, Ian held various positions within the Ministry of Forests until 1995 when he started work with Forest Renewal BC. Following that, Ian worked with the Land Reserve Commission as Forest Practice Officer before starting his current position as Vancouver Island Area Manager with Hancock Forestry in 2002.

Ian also served as Chair of the Western Canada Sustainable Forestry Initiative implementation committee for two years. As an historical note, Ian and his late twin brother Al were the first twins to register as Professional Foresters in BC. So, it’s safe to say Ian has made history in his forestry career.

An Evening with the Board

A big thanks to everyone who took the time to come out on a cold and windy February evening for a friendly and informal meet and greet with the PFLA Board.

The evening followed a day-long strategic planning session in Victoria. It was a great opportunity for PFLA members and Managed Forest owners to meet the people that represent them at the director level and to air any thoughts or concerns they might have in a relaxed and unstructured setting.

The event also gave board members a chance to get to know some of the PFLA members they haven’t yet had a chance to meet.

Thanks to such a good turn out, and positive experience overall, the board has decided to move the location of future strategic planning sessions around the province and give members in different communities a chance to attend similar informal meet and greet events.

Please stay tuned for more information about future opportunities.

Looking for New Board Members

The PFLA board is looking to strengthen and diversify its membership. If you’re a Managed Forest owner and a PFLA member who’s interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact Rod Bealing at

Congrats! Hancock Timber Resource Group Plants its One Billionth Tree

Hancock has planted more than two trees for every tree harvested since 1985. That’s an average of 32 million trees per year!


Hancock Timber Resource Group celebrates the planting of its one billionth tree.

The Hancock Timber Resource Group is celebrating the planting of its one billionth tree since the organization’s founding in 1985.

The Boston-based timberland investment management organization recently celebrated the milestone with a group of conservation stakeholders at an event in McCloud, California at the McCloud Forest, one of the company’s longest held properties.

“It is an honor to be leading our organization as we recognize this achievement, but what we truly celebrate today are the hundreds of Hancock Timber and Hancock Forest Management employees who have managed our forests since 1985. Their hard work and commitment every day make our long held belief that ‘good stewardship is good business’ a reality,” said Bill Peressini, HNRG Chief Executive Officer. “We also greatly appreciate our partnerships with conservation organizations. We look forward to working together to conserve working forests, which in turn will address critical issues including land use, water quality and climate change.”

“Sustainability is a core value of our organization. We plant roughly two trees for every tree we harvest, an average of more than two and a half million a month for the last 30 years,” said Brent Keefer, president of the Hancock Timber Resource Group. “Even before we harvest, we have plans in place to replant. Most of us won’t be around to see those seedlings grow to maturity, but future generations will benefit from these forests.”

The one billionth tree planted in McCloud was dedicated to the company’s employees, stakeholders, business partners and future generations.

“Working forests are part of the essential green infrastructure of this country. They provide us with clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, habitat for wildlife, recreational opportunities and support more than 2 million jobs. In addition, they are a critical part of our nation’s efforts to address climate change,” said Larry Selzer, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Conservation Fund. “Hancock has been at the forefront of the sustainable management of our nation’s working forests for more than three decades, conserving sites with high conservation value, promoting forest certification, and reforesting timberlands after harvest. This is a tremendous milestone for the company and we are proud to partner with them.”

Mr. Keefer noted that the one billion seedlings, a $1.1 billion investment, have been planted on the properties it manages in the United States, Canada, South America, New Zealand and Australia. These trees will provide enough wood to build more than 2 million homes and will store over their lifetime more than 730 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The seedlings would be enough to entirely reforest every acre within Rhode Island and Delaware, or create a six lane wide forest from Boston to San Francisco.

Dates of Interest for 2017

save-the-date-sticky-noteHere at the PFLA, we’re passionate about private forestry. Spreading the word about the positive contributions private forestry makes to economies and communities across British Columbia is a big part of what we do.

We take every opportunity to network with forest owners, land managers, resource professionals, industry experts, elected officials and community members.

For your interest, we’ve put together a list of the events we’re looking forward to this year, along with a few others we thought you might like to know about.

If we missed something, or you’re hosting an event you’d like included, please let us know and we’ll add your information to the list.

Truck Loggers Association’s 74th Annual Convention & Trade Show
“BC Forestry — In it For the Long Run”
Wednesday, January 18th to Friday, January 20th
Vancouver, BC

Western Forestry and Conservation Association 4th Annual Conference
Mapping the Course: Timberlands, Forest Products Processing, and Fiber Issues for 2017
Portland, Oregon
Thursday, January 19th

19th Annual Pacific Agriculture Show
Thursday, January 26th through Saturday, January 28th
Abbotsford, BC

Premier’s BC Natural Resources Forum
Tuesday, January 31st to Thursday, February 2nd
Prince George, BC

Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association 2017 Annual Conference & Tradeshow
Monday, January 30th to Friday, February 3rd
Victoria, BC

2017 Islands Agriculture Show
Friday, February 3rd to Saturday, February 4th
Port Alberni, BC

Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival
Saturday, February 4th and Sunday, February 5th
Duncan, BC

Coastal Silviculture Committee 2017 Winter Workshop
Mitigating Projected Timber Supply Declines
Tuesday, February 21st
Nanaimo, BC

Association of BC Forest Professionals 2017 Annual Conference
“Changing Landscapes, New Opportunities”
Wednesday, February 22nd to Friday, February 24th
Prince George, BC

Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities 68th Annual Conference and Trade Show
Friday, April 7th to Sunday, April 9th
Campbell River, BC

PFLA 22nd AGM, field tour and conference
Wednesday, June 7th and Thursday, June 8th
Cowichan Bay, BC

149th Annual Cowichan Exhibition Fair
Friday, September 8th to Sunday, September 10th
Duncan, BC

Union of BC Municipalities 2017 Convention and Trade Show
Monday, September 25th to Friday, September 29th
Vancouver, BC

Tapping Bigleaf Maples on Vancouver Island

bigleaf maple tree on Vancouver Island Did you know bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) are the largest and most common maple trees on Vancouver Island?

This “big daddy” of the Pacific Northwest boasts a height of 40 to 80 feet tall, a canopy that extends as far as 50 feet and sap with a sugar concentration fit for syrup production.

The leaves of the tree create sugar through photosynthesis. The sugar is stored in the roots and sapwood of the tree. Trees use sugar to grow buds, leaves, branches, sapwood and to heal wounds. The sapwood is near the outside of the tree and is the conduit for moving sap.

In honour of the recent Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival, followed closely by pancake Tuesday, we’ve put together some information on how to tap bigleaf maples.

Thanks to Gary and Katherine Backlund authors of Bigleaf Sugaring: Tapping the western maple for sharing the information.

When is the Best Time to Tap Your Maple Sap?

On Vancouver Island, tapping is best done between November and early March (once all the leaves haven fallen off the tree and before the buds open the following spring). Sap flows are normally sweetest in January and February. On the west coast, a good rule of thumb is that sap often flows a day before or after a change in the weather.

How Do You Know Which Trees to Tap?

An ideal tree has a wide-open crown, a trunk diameter between 4 and 18 inches and somewhat smooth bark. Although large diameter trees are desirable in the east, in the west large old gnarled hobbit maples seldom give much sap unless you can tap a sucker stem. When a maple tree is cut down, it sends up many new shoots (coppices) from the stump. These work well for tapping as they have a large established root system and you can use a big bucket to collect from several stems.

How to Tap Your Bigleaf Maple?

spiles for tapping sap to make maple syrup

Taps are called spiles (left image). Most commercial spiles are designed for a 7/16-inch hole. Ideally, you want to tap at a convenient height. Some folks recommend you tap on the sunny side of the tree directly under a large branch. Others suggest you work around the tree and get slightly higher with each new hole (assuming you tap the same tree year after year).

Tap holes are more productive if drilled on days when the sap is flowing. The hole is drilled 2 to 2.5 inches deep at a slight upward angle. If you drill too deep you may hit heartwood and decay.

When drilling the hole you should use a twist bit as opposed to a flat (speed) bit because a flat bit can clog the opening of the hole and reduce sap flow.

shows depth to place spile to tap sap and make maple syrup

Once the hole is drilled, drive the spile in place gently with a hammer to prevent leakage. Some spiles have a small hole that can clog up and stop the flow. You may want to pull the spile after several weeks to make sure no wood or sugar is plugging the spile.

You may also find that your holes dry up before you want them too. Usually, you’ll need to drill a new hole nearby after about 4 to 5 weeks.

Once the spile is removed it will take about a year for the hole to fill over with new wood.

How to Best Collect and Handle Sap?

milk jug collecting sap from a bigleaf maple tree on Vancouver Island

It’s nice to know some solutions are simple. Four-litre plastic milk jugs work well for collecting sap. The first step is to cut a hole where the milk jug tapers for the neck. Next, simply slip the jug over the spile. (right image)

using an oil jug to collect sap from bigleaf maple trees For highly productive trees, or multiple stems, you can connect spiles with tubing to a large bucket instead of using milk jugs.

Cooking oil buckets (16 litres in size and often  available for free from restaurants) work well for collecting and handling sap. (left image)

Remember: Your collection system should prevent rainwater and insects from mixing with the sap.

The best idea is to collect sap at least every three days. Most of the run occurs during the warmest part of the day, but sometimes trees flow all night long.

Once collected, store your sap in a cool place. Because sap contains sugar and yeast it can easily sour. Ideally, you should boil your sap down every few days.

How Can You Use Your Sap?

Because sap is only available three or four months of the year, making syrup is a great way to condense and preserve this wonderful product for the other eight months.

Sap (also called maple water) contains amino acids, vitamins and many trace minerals. While turning sap into syrup is the most common use, you can also use sap in place of water when you’re making tea, coffee, cooking rice, soup, stew, bread and other beverages.

How to Boil Down Your Sap to Make Syrup?

Sap is about 98% water. Boiling sap causes the water to evaporate which reduces the sap to syrup. At 2% sugar it will take about 43 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup.

If you’re boiling-down your sap indoors, you’ll have about 42 litres of steam to deal with. Using wood or propane heat outdoors is preferred. Stainless steel or cast iron flat bottom pans or large diameter kettles are best. Sap is considered syrup at 66.5% sugar.

Here are the steps to follow to boil-down your sap into syrup:

  1. Fill your pan with sap and heat to a rolling boil (some people filter the sap first).
  2. Skim any foam that appears off the top.
  3. As levels drop, add additional sap (slowly in order not to kill the boil).
  4. Taste occasionally for sweetness. Sap can burn easily when it’s close to done, so when it tastes quite sweet, bring the pan indoors to finish carefully on the stove.
  5. You can judge doneness by taste alone or by measuring temperature.
  6. To measure temperature: boil some water and measure the boiling temperature with a candy thermometer (the boiling temperature of water changes daily with atmospherics conditions). Water turns to gas at boiling so you can only reach approx. 212 degrees Fahrenheit and no hotter. Your syrup will be 66.7% sugar when its boiling temperature reaches 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the temperature of boiling water. It’s the sugar in the syrup that allows you to reach the higher temperature.

Important: CAUTION!

Your sap/syrup will be a very hot liquid, so be careful!! Things move fast at the end and you don’t want to accidentally burn or boil-over and ruin all your hard work.

It’s best to finish off a large quantity of syrup rather than a small one. You can evaporate your sap until it’s about 50% sugar, freeze it and store until you have at least a litre to finish.

How to Preserve and Store Your Syrup?

Strain the hot finished syrup through a felt or milk filter to remove the sugar sand (coffee filters also work, but not as well). If you decide not to strain the liquid, the sugar sand will settle to the bottom of the jars. No big deal. It’s a matter of preference.

The sap can then be poured into hot sterile jars and sealed or frozen. The sugar content preserves the syrup. If the sugar content is too low, the syrup can spoil. Syrup that grows mold can be filtered and re-boiled with no damage to the flavour.

Happy sap tapping!

A big PFLA thanks to Gary Backlund for sharing the information with us and a hearty congratulations on another successful Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival!

Visit the PFLA Facebook page to check out some archived photos of the Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival from a few years ago.

Time Well Spent with the Forest Practices Board

Clf-xUQVEAAfTrt.jpg_largePart of PFLA’s role as advocate for B.C.’s forest owners includes taking advantage of opportunities to spend time with key individuals and organisations that share our passion for quality forest stewardship.

One such occasion arose recently when PFLA members joined staff, directors and the chair of the Forest Practices Board in Port Alberni for an information-sharing dinner and field tour.

The Forest Practices Board was in the Alberni Valley area as part of a review of practices on public lands, and PFLA members graciously accepted the invitation to “show and tell” how we address regulatory and non-regulatory matters on private forest lands.

While the FPB has no jurisdiction over auditing forest practices on private lands (that’s the purview of the Managed Forest Council), the FPB does, from time to time, receive inquiries about private land forestry.

The meeting in Port Alberni was a great opportunity to raise awareness about the regulatory model under the Private Managed Forest Land Act, along with other key acts and regulations, certification and voluntary practices that guide forest stewardship on private land.

During dinner, local forest owners and representatives from the Managed Forest Council delivered presentations about private forest practices that led to a productive question-and-answer discussion. The next morning, we all shared breakfast, and more productive discussions, before heading out on a short field tour.

One of the topics we spent a great deal of time and energy discussing is the steps forest owners and land managers take to voluntarily minimise negative visual quality impacts that arise from forest management activities.

PFLA is proud to report that members of the Forest Practices Board were impressed by the site we visited showing recently completed harvesting work done by Island Timberlands opposite Port Alberni and across the inlet.

Other highlights included: a review of a recently upgraded log dump, a look at timber harvesting, and discussions about reforestation and watershed protection practices.

Special thanks to the members and staff of the Forest Practices Board for making the time and showing an interest in how we manage our private