Creating Generations of Trees

West Fraser reforests the land we harvest, planting a similar mix and variation of tree species. How do we collect the seeds we need to replant millions of trees a year?

Many years ago, our foresters observed healthy trees in the forest areas where we harvest, gathered their cones, and collected their seeds. Let’s call these original trees the “grandparents.”  Grandparent trees are selected because they have certain traits and are well adapted to particular environments or certain conditions depending on where they grew in the forest. The seeds from these superior trees are provided to a site called a seed orchard, where they are grown into “parent” trees. In the orchard, we can carefully monitor and take care of the parent trees that provide millions of seeds to grow our seedlings. Talk about a sustainable family tree!

Seed orchards are beneficial because of the relatively protected environment that enables growers to nurture the well-being of hundreds of the parent trees from common issues like insects and disease. In turn, the seeds we collect will ensure superior, disease resistant trees grow in the forest, where they can become the biggest and the best.  The seeds we plant are not genetically modified. Orchards produce genetically-improved seed based on the natural genetic attributes of wild and native trees. 

West Fraser is a 60% partner in the Vernon Seed Orchard Company (VSOC), where their soil and climate is beneficial for seed crops from White Spruce, Douglas Fir and Lodgepole Pine seeds. VSOC also has an orchard in Quesnel where the northern climate is more favourable for pine seed production. Since VSOC’s inception in 1989, it has produced a billion seedlings for the crown land of the Province of British Columbia. Close to 30% of its 1 billion seeds have been planted by West Fraser.

While some seeds are selected to grow into seedlings for planting, we also directly seed certain areas and stimulate trees to naturally regenerate and support genetic diversity.  Natural regeneration is particularly important where trees have rotted before they could be harvested, such as areas that are affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. In these sites, we take advantage of climate areas that have healthy soil by plowing the earth to create spaces for tree cones to plant their seeds.

Learn more about our Forest Management practices here.  Read our other reforestation stories: Sustainable Forest Management Starts with a Seed, Renewable Resource: Planting Trees, Growing Healthy Forests, and Changing Climate, Changing Trees.