Woodlot 85

Howie introduces the group to Woodlot 85.

One of the highlights of PFLA’s 2015 Forest Field Tour was a visit to Howie Griessel’s woodlot near Union Bay for an interesting discussion of forest health issues—specifically, managing Douglas-fir bark beetle and root rot problems.

Woodlot 85 was advertised and awarded in 1991. The Crown portion of the woodlot license is 400 hectares. The site we visited on the tour was a top up awarded in 1999.

Identifying the Problem

When Howie took control of the area, they did a forest health survey and found not only a significant root rot problem on the lower sites, but also a significant Douglas-fir bark beetle infestation.

Howie describes, “We knew there was quite a bit of root rot and we wanted to know how much and where to focus our harvesting. What we didn’t realize until we did the health survey was it also had Douglas-fir bark beetle.”

Making a Management Plan

Howie set up a harvest schedule (a fifteen year program) to harvest quite a large swath of the woodlot in a series of parallel entries to address the worst hit areas of root rot and Douglas-fir bark beetles first, and then progress in a harvest pattern and post-harvest treatment designed to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) further beetle problems, as well as manage the root rot problem.

Howie explains, “Part of the planning was definitely driven by the Douglas-fir bark beetle. People from Natural Resources Canada Pacific Forestry Centre Burnside Lab came up and confirmed it was Douglas-fir bark beetle. They said it looked like sleeper cells that had been around for a while and hadn’t expanded.”

Howie didn’t want to take the risk. The population wasn’t exploding, it was kind of bumbling along, but who knows what might trigger a population explosion? So they decided to try and get rid of the bark beetle and developed a plan to aggressively harvest over 100 hectares.

Harvesting the Stand

The stand was 79 years old with different sized trees, but not more than 15 years variation, and the bark beetle was mostly in the dominant trees. Because of saturated soil and blow down problems associated with wind in the area thinning wasn’t an option.

Woodlot 85

Howie illustrates the 3-phaset step stand profile strategy.

The Douglas-fir bark beetles were focused on the root rot centres. Not dead trees, but trees stressed by root rot. Howie explains, “The beetles seemed to know it and they’d get in there. We wanted to wait until the adults had bored in, laid their eggs and then fall the tree, and get it out of there before the larvae pupated and left the tree.”

It was a fairly aggressive pattern. They logged a little over 100 hectares in 10 years. They cut the trees in April and got them out as fast as they could. The plan included a 3-phase cut they fashioned after an approach used in Germany in areas where serious windfall events are a problem.

According to Howie, “The goal is to create a step-stand profile, so we logged a strip (90 meters wide) in phase one, then phase two and then phase three. The theory is that the stepped saw tooth pattern starts to create turbulence with the wind and stops the wind from going as far into the stand.”

Re-planting the Stand

In the area we visited, they planted 1100 stems per hectare, but also got a fair amount of volunteers from seeds. Planting the area followed harvesting fairly tightly. Howie describes, “Sometimes, because of our cut-controls, I’ll log half a block one year and half the next year, but we’re planting it before we log the other half.”

In general, they plant a mix on the woodlot. Howie adds, “It’s anywhere from 15 to 20 percent cedar in our planting bags: always 615 cedars to give it a chance to get going, and 515 Douglas-fir.”

Managing for Root Rot

When Howie felled the area they had the logger mark an X on the root rot stumps with his saw to define the root rot area. Then the excavator operator took the stumps out, as well as anything within 4 or 5 meters of the infected stump area. After that, they were able to plant Douglas-fir in the stumped areas again. They also planted red cedar around the edges in case they didn’t get all the root rot because red cedar is resistant to root rot.

Thanks to Howie for the thoughtful and informative tour. Stay tuned for stop #2 where Howie went above and beyond with a detailed presentation on log prices and getting the best value from your harvest.