Mike Sakakibara, the planning supervisor in the Quesnel woods office, spreads out the historic aerial photos of the cut block in Tree Farm Licence (TFL) #5 (which is now a part of the larger TFL 52), first harvested around 1955.
He flips between photos, tracing the over lapping lines of the cut block as it was expanded over the next several years, and partially replanted in 1956. “It is fascinating to me to see these healthy trees here, because they used none of the techniques we use today. If you look at this forest, it’s incredible that we are ready – 60 years later – to get a second harvest of high quality logs from this area.”
In the 1950s purposeful reforestation was becoming a bigger part of Canada’s forest management practices; setting a new standard for managing the land. Unlike Alberta’s forest licensing system, area-based licenses like TFL 5 are not common in B.C. In this region, West Fraser does not compete with other companies for harvesting rights. The actions we undertake reforesting areas or to improve tree growth will provide benefits 60, 70 or 80 years later when that young seedling has grown into a mature tree.
Mike and his team have been surveying trees and mapping out a harvesting plan closely following the original cut block. “This block was an experiment in the 50’s. We are way up in the interior. The trees planted here are coastal Douglas-fir, so they are completely out of their preferred environment,” he notes as he navigates below the dense canopy of fir, pine and balsam. “They had bare root trees in the back of a truck – no cooling – drove up from the coast and stuck them in the ground and left the trees alone for close to thirty years. It’s really amazing.”
“It is very different now. If we had harvested this area today, we would be planting a mix of tree types that are natural to this area within two years of harvesting. The seedlings – which would be kept cool while being transported – are planted in a plug of dirt with fertilizer to get the best start. We would be coming back to remove the brush that competes with the young trees for light, applying fertilizer to help them grow and actively monitoring the new trees so we are sure they are well established.” The modern techniques for silviculture and science-based forest-management activities that West Fraser employs increase the timber available for future harvesting by 15% or more.
Thinning is a stand management technique that West Fraser can use to capture fibre from stands. It allows some logging to take place, removing smaller trees that can be used for sawlogs or pulp production and it opens up space for the remaining trees to grow bigger and taller to encourage more peeler logs, which are used to produce veneer.
Walking through this full-grown forest, sunlight trickling through the tree branches, a few tree stumps interspersed within the trees remind you that this healthy forest is second growth. This block is surveyed and planned for harvesting – it will be West Fraser’s first harvest of seedling – grown trees from a reforested plot. We planted more than 56 million trees last year, so that there will be many more regrown forests for the future.