Scientists and forestry experts met in Quesnel this week to look for solutions for the future of the sector. From left: Brion Salter, U.S. Forest Service geographer; Dr. Susan Pritchard, U.S. Forest Service forest ecologist; Dr. Nick Povak, U.S. Forest Service ecologist; Dr. Robin Gregory, UBC senior research scientist; Dr. Paul Hessberg, U.S. Forest Service landscape ecologist; Robert Gray, forest fire ecologist, Gray Consulting; and Erin Robinson, Fraser Basin Council regional manager.                                Melanie Law photo

Scientists and forestry experts met in Quesnel this week to look for solutions for the future of the sector. From left: Brion Salter, U.S. Forest Service geographer; Dr. Susan Pritchard, U.S. Forest Service forest ecologist; Dr. Nick Povak, U.S. Forest Service ecologist; Dr. Robin Gregory, UBC senior research scientist; Dr. Paul Hessberg, U.S. Forest Service landscape ecologist; Robert Gray, forest fire ecologist, Gray Consulting; and Erin Robinson, Fraser Basin Council regional manager. Melanie Law photo

Ecologists, industry experts look at solutions for forestry sector in face ‘new normal’

Scientists met with forestry bigwigs in Quesnel to brainstorm restructuring forest management

The City of Quesnel facilitated a session this week for forestry professionals and scientists as part of an ongoing project to re-examine the future of the industry.

The Landscape Modelling and Scoping Session took place Sept. 25-26 at the Billy Barker Casino Hotel showroom, bringing together around 40 experts from across the province, as well as a team of scientists from Washington, USA, including landscape ecologist Dr. Paul Hessburg.

The session was designed to build upon ideas from Quesnel’s Future of Forestry Think Tank, which was held in May this year, to reconsider how the forestry industry manages the landscape in order for the sector to remain viable when faced with climate change, widespread forest fires and beetle epidemics.

READ MORE: Quesnel Think Tank calls for ‘forest resiliency’ to keep sector viable

West Fraser Mills’ chief forester for B.C. operations Jeff Mycock was in attendance, and addressed the gathering on Wednesday morning.

“We are hearing that this is climate change and this [large-scale forest fires; beetle kill] is the new normal … yes, climate change is a major factor, but this is a forest management problem with a forest management solution, and that’s the mantra we want to get more broadly endorsed,” he explained.

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson continued: “Climate change is an accelerant. The root cause is the forest management conundrum, where we thought we were doing something that was sustainable forest management, and it’s not.”

Session attendees were charged with coming up with short- and long-term solutions to address the issues currently facing the forestry sector.

Simpson explained the experts in the room had the resources and tools to frame the questions, so that if Quesnel’s industry is sanctioned to implement a new way to work on a land-base, the industry will be able to engage with the community and local stakeholders on the issues as well as the methods to move forward.

Research from the United States

Dr. Hessburg attended the session along with a team of scientists from his U.S. Forest Service Pacific North West lab in Washington State. The lab has been working for around 25 years to diagnose problems with how we manage the landscape – including forests – and chart a new course.

“We’ve been applying what we’ve learned from our research to the landscape.

“We are applying those same kinds of ideas here – how did the landscape change as a consequence of management and our uses over 100 years, and what did those changes bring about in terms of landscape processes – like wildfire and its behaviour; defoliation [stripping a tree of its leaves] as a natural process, but now a highly inflated process; and bark beetle mortality. All these things are natural agents across the landscape and they are behaving in a peculiar and large-scale way right now. What caused that?”

Hessburg argued that we need to take a longer view of landscape management, and to co-operate with how a landscape naturally functions in order to find a new way to manage the forests in terms of industry.

“What we are finding out is that when we don’t mimic that [natural] functionality, that’s when we go askew. We are noticing it throughout the Western U.S. as well.”

READ MORE: Era of Megafires – what people need to know

Hessburg and his team have been studying U.S. forests to discover how not allowing natural wildfires to occur combined with industrial logging has affected landscapes.

“There is some wilderness in the U.S. where we haven’t logged. So we can go there and say, ‘If we haven’t logged but we’ve kept fires out for maybe five decades, what does that look like?’ When you remove the logging influence, how does that differ from places where you kept fire out and you logged?” explained Hessburg.

Hessburg said he believes recent ecological events mean the current environment for collaboration between forestry management and science is at its best.

“We commonly recognize the need to up our game, we recognize things are broken and we might be the most clever if we work together to apply knowledge, answer questions and figure out answers together.”

Dr. Susan Pritchard, a forest ecologist from Seattle, summed it up: “I think the catchphrase would be that necessity is the mother of invention.”

Effects of landscape planning on local industry

West Fraser chief forester Mycock said the company recognizes the sector’s systems for ensuring sustainable forestry management are no longer optimum.

“We are participating in this process in the hopes of creating more stability and more certainty in the future, with the underlying premise being that healthy forests equal healthy industry, which equals a healthy community.”

He said he can’t answer questions as to how changing the way the industry manages forests will affect local forestry jobs and the economics of the sector as a whole, but he believes continuing with the current forest management system will only mean trouble for the future.

“There’s many different ways to approach the problem. How do we rebuild these landscapes? Do we plant the same density [of trees], or vary the density? Do we promote deciduous forests more than we have historically? Probably we are looking at different recipes for all those kinds of approaches than what we have historically done,” he said.

Mycock said the forestry industry has adapted before, finding a way to process beetle kill, among other things, and can adapt again.

“What we know today is that we see a lot of uncertainty and instability in a land-base that we thought was more stable. … We feel compelled that we have to do something. We have to work towards a different outcome.”

The City of Quesnel is continuing conversations with provincial and federal politicians in the hopes of getting a greenlight to work on the local land-base and implement some of the ideas that are being developed by this session as well as others that have taken place in the region since May.

The Landscape Modelling and Scoping Session was funded by the City of Quesnel and the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle-Action Coalition, as well as funds from Cariboo Strong.

READ MORE: City council allocates remainder of Cariboo Strong funds

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

Most Read