Balsam seedlings

Changing Climate, Changing Trees

Woodmere Nursery, just 15 minutes from Smithers in nearby Telkwa, B.C., has been growing robust trees since 1985. Joe Wong founded Woodmere and it’s clear that he is passionate about nurturing trees to replace what West Fraser harvests. “We say quality is a field measure,” says Joe, “the greenhouse isn’t the real world. Our objective is to grow seedlings ‘fit for purpose’, that they are conditioned so they will thrive in the environment they will live in.”

Woodmere provides seedlings for West Fraser’s operations in Alberta and B.C., growing more than 18 million trees each year. Joe’s knowledge has been greatly tested by West Fraser in Smithers, which has been shifting its tree species planting mix to include more balsam (or subalpine fir) in addition to spruce, pine, western larch and Douglas fir. “Balsam is very difficult to grow in a nursery environment. It adapts to the smallest changes in conditions – even just a cold draft will stop the seedlings from growing,” explains Joe. “Of course, this is also one of the reasons West Fraser has been increasing the planting of it: balsam fir is highly responsive to environmental conditions like those that we expect to be more common in the future, such as snow load in the higher elevations. This is one way West Fraser’s forestry team is addressing climate change mitigation, through biodiversity.”

West Fraser’s balsam seedlings growing at Woodmere Nursery in Telkwa, BC. Just one greenhouse grows 300,000 seedlings.

Photo: West Fraser’s balsam seedlings growing at Woodmere Nursery in Telkwa, BC. Just one greenhouse grows 300,000 seedlings.

“Diversity of tree types in West Fraser’s reforestation program is very important to the vitality of future forests. One of the concepts we are thinking about is how to help the forests we are growing to adapt to a changing climate,” adds Smithers Silviculture Supervisor Garth Ehalt. “Adding more balsam into our seedling mix, at higher elevations, is one strategy we are implementing to improve the diversity and the ability of the forest to withstand natural disturbances like pests and more extreme weather patterns.”

Garth and Joe credit the long relationship between Woodmere and West Fraser that has allowed both companies to work closely together on projects like increasing successful balsam seedlings. “Garth and his team gather the seeds we need, and we work hard to efficiently nurture strong, healthy seedlings that will grow well in the field,” says Joe. “It’s definitely a partnership,” adds Garth “We are pushing to improve our performance; we are trying new things to set up healthy future forests. We can’t do our best work without the right partners to help us get there.”