Wildlife Tree Committee Explained

What kind of link exists between tree retention, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and forest worker safety? Find out more by reading about the work of the Wildlife Tree Committee of British Columbia.

Cooperation in the forest – It does happen!

What kind of link exists between tree retention, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and forest worker safety? And how do you effectively manage for all four at the same time? It may sound a bit tricky, but all that’s required is a little cooperation and some innovative planning. Find out more by reading about the work of the Wildlife Tree Committee of British Columbia.

Wildlife trees are standing dead or dying trees that provide valuable habitat to 80 species of animals throughout B.C. That means about 20% of the province’s birds, mammals and amphibians depend on wildlife trees for nesting, denning, roosting, perching and feeding habitat. Not that long ago, these valuable sources of habitat were thought of only as dead wood and a safety hazard.

Gradually, over the past decade, protecting wildlife habitat and maintaining biodiversity have become important forest management objectives. In part, forest harvesting systems have changed to help meet these new objectives. Today, more trees are being retained either in patches or scattered across harvest blocks. These retained trees are great for wildlife habitat, but without proper planning, they can still present a safety hazard. That’s why cooperation in the woods is critical! To address potentially conflicting goals, the Workers’ Compensation Board, government and industry together agreed to look at the issue of retaining wildlife trees.

Thus began the Wildlife Tree Committee (WTC). Formed in 1991, the WTC is a multi-agency committee composed of representatives from the Ministry of Forests; Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection; the Workers’ Compensation Board;, and various industry, labour and public interest groups from across the province, including Canadian Forest Products Ltd., IWA Canada, the Western Silviculture Contractor’s Association, BC Hydro, and the BC Nature Federation. The mandate of this diverse group is to “promote the conservation of wildlife trees and associated stand-level biodiversity in a safe and operationally efficient manner in forest, park and urban environments.”

WTC members are proud of their successful partnerships. With 38 major initiatives and products completed, the WTC provides efficient, coordinated assistance for anyone seeking practical advice on wildlife tree policy and management in British Columbia. The WTC web site can be found at http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfp/wlt/.

The biggest WTC achievement to date has been the Wildlife/Danger Tree Assessor’s Course (WDTAC). This two-day course provides important training to a range of professionals, technicians and others working in industry, government, resource consulting, wildland fire fighting, occupational health and safety, parks management and arboriculture. The WDTAC is regarded as the best North American model for combining tree hazard assessment criteria with high worker safety standards and the maintenance of wildlife habitat. With nearly 3000 people qualified by the course over the past four years, the WDTAC has contributed significantly to an increased awareness of wildlife tree management practices.

With the leadership of the Wildlife Tree Committee, the coordinated management of wildlife trees and forest worker safety has become a reality – hand in hand with a changing forest industry.