For the full press release and details, visit here.
Blue Ridge Lumber (BRL) recognizes the multitude of values that the forest resource provides to the people of Alberta. Every year, BRL carries out public consultation on forest management related plans and activities to ensure that members of the public have meaningful opportunities to review, ask questions, and provide input on our operating plans for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 situation and restrictions on public gatherings, we are unable to host our physical open houses in local communities as we typically would at this time of year.
As an alternative, we are making our annual consultation information available through the West Fraser website. The documents provide an overview of Blue Ridge Lumber’s 2021-2022 planned activities.
We encourage the public to review the information provided, and to contact us directly with any questions or comments. Respondents may direct their inqueries to Dane Webster at 780-648-6399 or [email protected] .
- In 2021, Blue Ridge Lumber mill will consume nearly 1.4 million m3 of raw timber in the production of lumber and MDF
- Trees are felled at the stump, skidded to a temporary road, and topped to meet mill specifications
- About 80 % of the forest operations will be done in frozen conditions to protect sensitive ground and access wet areas.
- Blue Ridge Lumber supervisors ensure that activities abide by Government regulated Operating Ground Rules that set guidelines for conducting all forest operations including ground disturbance, crossing watercourses, and utilization of the timber resource
- Throughout the entire harvesting to reclamation process we respect all other landuse activities and accommodate changes where suitable
- In order to meet mill consumption, log trucks will deliver approximately 30,000 loads to the Blue Ridge Lumber mill yard in 2021
- These will be delivered on a combination of temporary roads, privately owned lease roads, and provincial highways.
- Blue Ridge Lumber enters into a winter weight agreement with the Government of Alberta to deliver heavier loads during frozen conditions
- Log trucks will be inspected and weighed to ensure the winter weight agreement is being followed
- Blue Ridge Lumber reclaims all temporary roads and watercourse crossings so access is limited and disturbed areas can be reforested
- Maintaining water quality is a high priority when conducting forest operations on public land
- Protecting the water resource is accomplished by establishing good drainage and erosion controls
Road and Crossing Monitoring
- Blue Ridge Lumber is a member of the FSCP (Foothill Stream Crossing Protocols), a program through which permanent road stream crossings are inspected and maintained
- Blue Ridge Lumber manages approximately 1200 watercourse crossings on permanent roads that it owns and maintains
Forest Management Plan (FMP)
- The FMP is the highest level plan. It plans over a 200-year time horizon and provides direction to all other plans below it
- An Annual Allowavle Cut (AAC) is recommended in the FMP.
- Important non-timber values (e.g. biodiversity, recreation, etc.) are identified and strategies are identified to manager them.
- The FMP contain a 20-year spatial harvest sequence. This means proposed harvest block locations are shown on a mpa for the first 20 years of the plan.
- FMPs are generally redone every 10 years.
Mountain Pine Beetle Plan (MPB)
- Technically, the MPB Plan is an amendment to the approved FMP.
- The intent of the MPB Plan is to reduce (through harvesting) the area of pine stands that are highly susceptible to mountain pine beetle.
- BRL's MPB Plan (approved in 2009) includes an AAC (until this FMP is approved), a 20-year spatial harvest sequence, and addresses some of the major non-timber values (e.g. water, grizzly bears, etc.).
Operating Ground Rules (OGRs)
- Ground rules are the practices used in planning and conducting forest managment activites such as timber harvesting and reforestation which constitutes the methods used to implement decisions made in the FMP and other higher level plans such as Regional Land Use Plans.
- OGRs are developed in a joint process between the regional timber rights holders and the GOA (for W14 - BRL, MWFP, and ANC) based on a provincial template.
- Deviations from the OGRs to address site-specific conditions must be pre-approved by GOA
Compartment Assessment (CA)
- The CA is only requried when information or major issues are identified, that in the government's opinion, have not been addressed in the approved FMP (e.g. a large forest fire or a large outbreak of MPB).
General Development Plan (GDP)
- The GDP provides a five-year projection of the compartments that may be harvested within, as well as any provposed main road construction and reclamation.
- The GDP describes the timber operator's cut control status; reporting on the status and forecast the coniferous and deciduous Annual Allowable Cut.
- The GDP, which is produced annually, provides a link between the FMP and AOP. It is a tactical level plan, bridging the gap between strategic and operational plans.
Forest Harvest Plan (FHP)
- The FHP is an operational harvest plan, usually at the compartment or sub-compartment level.
- The primary components of a FHP are a map and a report that clearly show the proposed harvest block boundaries, roads, and watercourse crossing for the area being harvested. The level of variance from the spatial harvest sequence is assessed at this stage.
- The design is valid for five operaitng years after the year of approval, unless issues deemed significant by the govenment arise during this period.
Annual Operating Plan
- Once approved by GOA, the AOP authorizes all road, harvest, and foest management activities.
- The AOP describes the activities proposed for the current AOP year (i.e. May 1 to April 30). The AOP components include:
- an operating and timber production schedule
- all applicable FHPs, GDP, CAs (if applicable)
- a reforestation program
- a fire control plan
- a road plan
The FMP Performance Stewardship Report
- The FMP Performance Stewardship Report is submitted to the GOA every five years and reports on progress in meeting the Objectives and Targest in the FMP.
- This Report is the main mechanism for monitoring, reporting, and continual improvement.
Why do we lay out planned cutblocks prior to timber harvesting?
- Layout field crews use design plans, training and experience to determine cutblock boundaries, roads, and streams.
- Purpose is to ensure that block boundaries and roads are properly flagged and clearly visible. These flagged boundaries are used by equipment operators during harvesting to ensure that activities occur in the correct areas.
- Properly flagged boundaries and roads reduce the chance of trespass or environmental impact during harvest and silviculture operations.
- Ensures protection of high risk areas such as streams & riparian areas, protected historical resources, private land, and certain wildlife habitats.
- Our #1 priority is to ensure that all legal requirements for harvesting are followed.
How much Layout is planned for 2020?
- Blue Ridge Lumber plans to layout roughly 1.3 million m3 of timber. About 5,900 ha for future harvest operations throughout Blue Ridge Lumber’s FMA and timber quota areas.
Mountain Pine Beetle
Blue Ridge lumber has two programs for controlling and limiting the spread of the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB).
- Containment baiting around our log yards in order to monitor and contain MPB to prevent damage to pine trees in adjacent
- Each year BRL staff hang pheromones around our log yard and remote satellite yards on beetle traps in the beginning of July which attract the Mountain Pine Beetle
- The beetle are trapped at the base. BRL staff collect and destroy the beetles on weekly base from the beginning of June through mid-September.
- Protection of seed orchards and progeny test sites provides localized protection to high value pine trees
- Repellant pouches are put up at 15m intervals in a grid laid pattern at 2 3m height on the north side of the trees throughout the 5 progeny sites and at the BRL Lodgepole Pine Seed Orchard.
Permanent Sample Plots
Blue Ridge Lumber has made a commitment to establish a long term growth and yield program for their Forest Management Area. This program is used to assess the growth and changes of the forest resources, and in turn help us determine the sustainable harvest levels. One of the ways we do this is by using Permanent Sample Plots (PSPs).
The growth and changes to the stand over time can be assessed by taking periodic measurements (roughly every 5 10 years) of the same trees within a defined plot. BRL has close to 300 plots scattered across the Forest Management Area. Height, diameter, condition of the trees, and much more is taken at the time of the measurements. PSPs will help determine our Annual Allowable Cut and other Sustainable Management Practices as we can determine how the trees in a variety of natural and maintained ecosites are growing and changing over time.
Mechanical Site Prep
Why do we use mechanical site preparation?
- Creates microsites for planting
- Warms soils
- Creates a dry place to plant
- Helps curb competition
- Encourages natural regeneration
How much site prep will be done in 2020?
- We will complete approximately 2400 ha
- 1000 ha of Light Mounding
- 330 ha of Dragging
- 1400 ha of Ripping
- 70 ha of Hoe Mounding
- 80 ha Slash Raking
How many trees are being planted in 2021?
- We will be planting approximately 8.18 million seedlings
- Species are Lodgepole Pine, White Spruce and Black Spruce
- Trees are planted from middle of May until end of July
Why do we manually tend?
- To remove deciduous competition in areas where it is impeding reforestation success
- We treat sensitive areas, where we don’t want to apply herbicide; buffers, wet areas, etc.
- Areas where Aspen is too large for herbicide to be effective
- Program starts at the beginning of June to the end of July
- We are planning to manually tend 650 ha with brush saws
Why do we thin?
- To control the density of young stands, prevent stagnation, improve crop tree quality and reduce rotation length
- To promote forest health and productivity
- To increase merchantable conifer volume yield
- 800 - 1000 ha planned in 2021
Why do we have a vegetation management program?
- To control specific species such as grass and aspen from competing with conifer stock trees
- Grass and aspen compete with the newly planted conifer trees for moisture and nutrients
- Our goal is to achieve a successful stand that reaches rotation age (70-80 years) by following reforestation standards implemented by the province
- To ensure that we are conducting our program in a controlled and responsible manner
How do we spray?
- Cutblocks are treated both aerially and on the ground by backpack sprayers
When does the spray season start?
- The spray season is typically three weeks, starting mid-August and ending the beginning of September
- The operational season can only occur when the conifer trees are in a dormant state and the competitive species are able to absorb the product
What product is used?
VisionMax is mainly used and it is a glyphosate based product commonly used by various forestry companies across Canada.
What are other methods are used?
- Mechanical site prep and manual tending are silviculture methods that are used to minimize competition
- Vegetation management is the most effective tool that can aid in grass and aspen suppression
What are some of the risk management strategies in place?
- Watercourse buffers
- Boundary buffers
- Sensitive site identification
- Weather parameters
- Intensive ground truthing
- GPS technology both mapping and operationally
Does the entire cutblock get treated?
- Sensitive sites such as waterbodies, boundaries and wildlife trees are protected by buffers
- Based on cutblock strata, areas are left for natural growth and not treated. This promotes mixedwood forests
- Planned treatment data gets net down once the cutbock is sprayed
How many hectares are planned for the 2020 season?
- Approximately 2500 ha of area is planned for the 2021 season. This includes both aerial and ground programs.
When will Blue Ridge conduct timber harvest activities?
- A number of factors determine when we conduct timber harvest activities. These factors may include ground and weather conditions, regulatory and legislative constraints (i.e. Species at Risk Act, 2002 ), volume requirements and other conditions. Depending on these factors, Blue Ridge conducts timber harvest operations in both frozen and non-frozen weather seasons.
Could our operations plan change?
- As you review our operating plan s , it is important to understand that these plans are subject to operational change. Unforeseen circumstances such as hail storms, insect and tree disease outbreaks, wildfires, severe blowdown, unfinished timber harvest operations from previous y ears or other operational constraints may necessitate that we move our operations plans to other areas identified within the operating plan . It should also be noted that some of the areas outlined in Blue Ridge Lumber’s operating plans, may be harvested over multiple years.
Who approves Blue Ridge Lumber’s operating plans?
- Along with our other forest management and operational plans; Blue Ridge’s operating plans must be submitted to the Alberta government’s department of Agriculture and Forestry for approval. Provincial government approval is required for us to implement our plans
How does Blue Ridge determine which cut blocks require herbicide application?
- All replanted cut blocks that require herbicide treatment are assessed visually from the air, at which point we capture GPS coordinates to input into aircraft navigation systems.
Why not use mechanical methods in Blue Ridge’s vegetation management program?
- Forest companies have used mechanical site preparation in vegetation management programs in the past; however, these methods alone have proven ineffective at controlling the growth of competing plant types in replanted cut blocks due to the rich, productive soil present in the forests of northern Alberta. In other words, the competing plants simply continue to grow and thrive.
What do we do to ensure herbicide is applied properly?
- We closely follow the conditions and requirements outlined in the VisionMax product label. This product label outlines the rules regarding when, where and how the herbicide may be applied. The label also outlines the conditions that must be followed to ensure the produ ct does not runoff the treatment area.
- We also follow Alberta Environment’s Environmental Code of Practice , and we use Alberta Environment’s Forest Management Herbicide Reference Manual to guide the development of our vegetation management program. Once our program is developed, we submit our proposal to the Alberta government for approval.
- Moreover, we avoid herbicide application in certain areas, including watercourses, sensitive wildlife sites and known land use sites.
- Finally, in addition to the training and certification required of herbicide applicator contractors , Blue Ridge’s vegetation management program coordinators undergo education and training with respect to safe and proper herbicide use in the forest sector.
How does Blue Ridge operationally run a vegetation management program?
- Our vegetation management program coordinators visually monitor the aerial application of herbicide from the ground during the treatment operation. Specifically, our staff assesses weather conditions, and double check the area for people, watercourses, sensitive wildlife sites and other sites that have been deleted from the vegetation management program. We continuously advise the pilot with respect to spray operations and determine whether the proper conditions are in place to proceed with the herbicide treatment.