Do We Need a Silviculture Boss in B.C?

In 2006 the silviculture contracting sector planted 280 million seedlings in British Columbia. This is the third largest planting program ever undertaken in BC, and the third largest program of its kind in Canada.

This number of seedlings exceeds the combined annual planting in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. To put it another way, planted every two metres in a straight line that would be 560,000 km of seedlings ; fourteen laps around the equator. This is a very significant accomplishment – an accomplishment for which nurseries, foresters, silviculture contractors, and their suppliers of services and products need to stand tall and take credit. It is an accomplishment that requires broader recognition.

In my last column I opined about the absence of reliable figures about what we are doing and not doing in the province’s forests regarding restoration and reforestation. Since then some more numbers have been confirmed, like the ones above. But the problem isn’t just that there aren’t ready answers. The real problem is that so few people seem to be asking the questions.

I think what is bothering me is expressed in the following understatement from a recent special report by the Forest Practices Board, “Species Composition and Regeneration in Cut Blocks in Mountain Pine Beetle Areas”.

“Reforestation standards apply to individual harvested areas, and the reforestation of each harvested area is managed independently. As a result, the species composition of the young age class in a forest emerges from the species selections made by multiple foresters, each acting independently as they work to restock individual cut blocks. There are no requirements for, and few examples of, coordinating the reforestation of cut blocks to achieve a desired cumulative outcome for forest or landscape-scale composition.”

This isn’t the first time the Forest Practices Board has identified the absence of strategic landscape-level planning as problematic. So maybe I am not alone in feeling like I don’t know what is going on when it comes to our silviculture response to the ongoing assault on forest health. Nobody really is orchestrating a coordinated forestry strategy, so the kinds of figures and postings I am looking for don’t have a natural place to reside. And as I said before, with results-based forestry, which might just be laissez faire forestry if we don’t watch out, nobody really is asking.

One remedy to this might be to establish a Silviculture Boss equal in stature to the Beetle Boss. The same economy of scale (planning, infra-structure, etc) that has been used to expedite the salvage of MPB stands also needs to be employed for life after the beetle. There are opportunities for planting. There are opportunities for natural regeneration. There are opportunities for fuels management, fire suppression and eco-system restoration. But an effective silviculture response requires a coordinated landscape level plan. We need an aggressive silviculture response for timber values, hydrologic values, forest health values, and non-timber values.

For that to happen someone in our elected government has to be curious enough to start asking questions; a symptom of leadership. I am not sure that has been happening enough to date.