Overview map of the Sunshine Coast Timber Supply Area
To: Jillian Tougas, RPF, Resource Manager—Sunshine Coast Natural Resource District, and Forest Analysis Branch Office—Vancouver Forest Region
By sheer luck, a friend told me last week he had discovered there was a Timber Supply Analysis ongoing in this Forest District, leading to a revised AAC, and with a Public Comment period ending on May 1st. This isn’t common local knowledge, almost a well-kept secret, so I spent some time finding more information about this important review, and have sifted through the two PDF documents available on the SCTSA webpage before writing this response. While there are some laudable conservation goals now in place for a small number of endangered species across this magnificent coastal landscape, and some progress in recognition of aboriginal rights and title, nothing that I read has changed my woodworker’s perspective that our public “working forests” are still in relatively rapid decline due to an adherence to unscientific Timber Management policy.
I have lived within the SCFD for the last 50 years, mostly on Cortes Island. In the 70s I worked with MacMillan Bloedel on survey crews, and later spent a few years in treeplanting all over the province. These jobs were both a heart-rending education in what gets compromised to maintain the excessive flow of timber in BC, with more cubic metres exported per job than anywhere else in the world . Since the early 80s I’ve been exploring this whole beautiful coastal region by boat, but mostly making a living building houses in the Discovery Islands, and doing a wide variety of professional woodwork. It is from experience gained in all of these activities that I make the following response to this timber supply review:
1. The current methods of public notification and engagement with communities within the SCFD are inadequate. Printed papers are going extinct, and most people now get their information through digital means. Most communities now have websites where anyone, including government agents, can post notices and information, so residents are kept informed of policy matters that are of a more local concern. I suggest that the District and Regional staff responsible for public involvement must shift to a more modern and direct electronic notification of all communities within the SCFD, otherwise very few will know what’s happening. The wide spectrum of public feedback that you seek to guide policy will be tilted towards only those who are notified by the licensees with a direct economic interest in timber supply.
Furthermore, the public really needs to see ALL the good ecosystem mapping of the SCFD in order to make informed comment in any public review, but the only map provided in this TSR is a tiny low-info map showing the boundary of this forest district, and even that mapped boundary is incorrect, since Lasqueti Island has migrated over to the Arrowsmith FD. Ecosystem mapping will show the public that the majority of land in the SCFD is composed of extremely steep slopes, bedrock and retreating glaciers. Good productive forest land in the SCFD is actually quite rare.
2. As economically accessible old-growth in the THLB disappears, and further OG deferrals are implemented, there will be even more political pressure to harvest immature stands to maintain an overly optimistic AAC. I am already shocked by the young age of many current harvest areas, and would like to point out why this trend is an extremely bad idea.
First, young trees of most coniferous species in this THLB are by volume nearly half sapwood. Sapwood has no longevity in wood products, as the sugars within it attract fungi and boring insects. I have noticed that fir plywood mills on the coast ignore this and use the sapwood to make veneers anyway. Considering that plywood is now very expensive, and is often the primary material holding buildings upright, it is rather disconcerting when the plywood erupts in black fungus before the building can be finished and protected. This does not bode well for the durability of modern wood-based housing, or for the forests that must then resupply replacement buildings sooner in the future. This is a classic Feedback Spiral of Diminishing Returns, and totally unsustainable and counter-productive to the propaganda of long term carbon sequestration in durable wood products.
Second, the more frequent site disturbances created by shortened rotations also have a negative impact on biodiversity and carbon sequestration in forest soils. Many key nutrient inputs associated with older stands, such as arboreal lichens, do not have enough time to develop, so the soils and fertility within the THLB will become impoverished and tree growth will decline. This is another classic Feedback Spiral of Diminishing Returns, and totally unsustainable and counter-productive to timber supply, as well as the urgent need for all forests to perform as effective carbon sinks.
3. The solution to the serious problems described in #2 is quite simple—let the second growth trees grow to genuine maturity!
The productive land that I am fortunate to own has a stand of co-dominant Fir and Cedar that is now nearing 120 years of age. When I do harvest trees, usually one or two at a time, I count the rings and do a volume calculation on recent growth rates. To my amazement, I have discovered some trees have put on as much volume of wood in the last 40 years as they had in their first 80 years of life! And what is also important is that a lot of this doubling in volume is in the form of clear wood that has a much higher potential and monetary value in woodworking. There is more heartwood and less sapwood, and so more of the tree will endure for longer as human artifacts. This higher quality heartwood can become doors and windows, fine furniture or traditional boats. This lucrative potential would have been squandered if the whole stand had been clearcut at 80 years of age, when the immature trees had more sapwood and the heartwood full of large knots.
So when I see that young stands are often harvested now at the age of 60, I just shake my head in despair—doesn’t anyone realize what has been stolen from their childrens’ future? The world has envied our historical bounty of structural Douglas Fir timber. We can do far better now than grind it all down into mere cubic metres of low quality fibre. But patience is required, as any good farmer or woodworker knows. Second growth stands will also start to acquire many old growth attributes by the age of 120, and thus contribute more viable habitat to replace what has been lost with the hasty liquidation of the low-elevation old growth forests on this coast.
4. In my readings of fire risks described by Blackwell & Associates in recent Community Wildfire Prevention Plans, young homogenous plantation stands pose a higher fire risk than older more mature stands with less ladder fuels and greater structural diversity. It seems obvious that reducing the overall percentage area of contiguous young forest stands is a very positive wildfire mitigation strategy. Solution: reduce the rate of cut and focus on Quality, by growing more mature forests!
I do hope you can agree that the very limited Timber Harvest Land Base in the Sunshine Coast Forest District must contribute to and maximize long term viable solutions to mitigate climate change, and at the same time support the threatened survival of a multi-generational regional value-added woodworking economy using high quality wood. This must be the future we aim for, and can only be accomplished by allowing the second and third growth forests to fully mature before harvest. Please therefore calculate a conservation-based AAC with these critical long range goals, duties and obligations in mind.
Windjammer Woodworking & Design
Send your comment to: Jillian Tougas at email@example.com
and copy the Forest Analysis Branch at Forests.ForestAnalysisBranchOffice@gov.bc.ca