What do you get when you mix sunshine, amazing autumn colours and a group of thoughtful people? A great day for a forest tour!

PFLA was pleased to participate in a forestry tour hosted by the Shawnigan Lake Watershed Roundtable in early October 2012. The tour visited TimberWest, Island Timberlands and R and K Woodlot operations in the Shawnigan Lake Watershed area. With a focus on key values incorporated into forest land management, the tour was an excellent opportunity to connect with a diverse group of engaged people interested in the health of the Shawnigan Lake Watershed.

Foresters, biologists, fish and wildlife specialists, engineers, high school students, regional and provincial government representatives, local residents and Shawnigan Lake Watershed Roundtable members donned hard hats and safety vests and took to the woods to learn about forest management.

Our gracious hosts made sure the tour schedule was flexible with lots of room for participant-driven discussion (lunch was a big hit too!).

McGee Creek

McGee Creek was the site for a lively discussion about in-the-field results and silviculture in the 21st century. Harvested in the mid 1990s, McGee Creek was replanted within a year with a mix of Douglas fir (80%) and white pine (20%). The original Douglas fir stand had root rot issues at the time of harvest, so they did what nature would have done and replaced the root rot areas with a different species (white pine).

Invasive species like scotch broom and gorse pose a challenge for reforestation, and operations forester, Eric Jeklin, was on hand to describe some of the management processes (planting, brushing, treatment) used to encourage trees to grow as quickly as possible to surpass competing vegetation.

Before heading down the trail, Domenico Iannidinardo explained the scope and scale of the information management systems used to track information across a landscape. Using this data, they’re able to tell that today McGee Creek is intercepting rain and wind much like the original stand was.

The risk when harvesting a watershed is that increased delivery of water to streams will result in damage, eroded banks and sediments in the water. B.C.’s managed forest owners are collectively responsible for a large amount of forest land, over a broad landscape, and work with experts—registered professional foresters, biologists, engineers, geologists—to manage the rate of harvest and ensure risks are minimal and acceptable.

Koksilah River Forest Fire

A recent forest fire near the Koksilah River provided the backdrop for a conversation about risk management, land manager responsibilities and the interface between private and public land.

The 22 hectare forest fire, believed to be caused by recreational vehicles, was first noticed mid-day September 22nd, 2012. Crews were still onsite doing mop-up when we visited October 4th. Fire specialists explained the processes they used to respond to, manage and clean up the fire at a cost of roughly three quarters of a million dollars.

Forest owners are responsible for having resources available to deal with fire—planning, prevention, surveillance, initial attack and mop-up, but the risks associated with forest fires aren’t isolated to forest land and timber values. On southern Vancouver Island, forest fires can quickly spread to threaten the safety of adjacent residences and communities. Tour participants recognized the sense in which forest fire prevention becomes a community responsibility.

R and K Woodlot

Keith Granbois, of R and K Woodlot, invited tour participants for a stroll through Woodlot #0022, also located within Shawnigan Lake Watershed, to see the differences and similarities in the scale of forest management between large landowners and small area managers.

The discussion also touched on distinctions between public land and private land, as well as the cooperation between small managers and larger owners. Keith explained: without the ability to sell their merchantable timber to larger operators, small woodlots wouldn’t be harvesting timber because they wouldn’t have access to markets.

Thanks again to our hosts for an informative, thought provoking and collaborative forestry tour, and an extra large dose of appreciation to the Shawnigan Lake Watershed Roundtable for their interest, initiative and organizing efforts.

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