Tree Farm Licence 52: a 60+ Year Success Story

In Quesnel, West Fraser manages an area-based tenure, Tree Farm License 52 (“TFL 52”), that we see as an excellent model for sustainable forest management.

Under volume-based tenures, holders are unlikely to have the right to harvest in areas where they have previous harvested and replanted. Under area-based tenures, the holder is responsible for all of the sustainable forest management planning and has the licence to harvest timber in a defined location over the long term. Area-based tenures provide a strong incentive for holders to invest in intensive forest management and silviculture practices as the benefits improves forestry yields flow to the holders.  

The public forest that is covered by TFL 52 has benefited from a long-term forest management practices aimed to increase the amount and quality of timber available for harvest in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. The incentive for us to follow these practices is the certainty that we will benefit from vibrant and healthy TFL 52 in the future. Practices that improve timber yield will also produce more revenue for the province of B.C. to fund health, education and other government services. The public benefit from a well-managed area-based tenure such as TFL 52 because it supports sustainable, stable businesses in the community while maintaining the many other important values on the land.

TFL 52 has been sustainably managed since 1950. Over the last 20+ years West Fraser’s long term approach to sustainable forest management has enabled us to successfully implement a number of forest-management activities that have increased the timber available for harvesting by 15%. This increase has been possible without compromising other values in the forest and during a time where the potential timber harvesting landbase was reduced by more than 30% to accommodate important processes like regional land use planning and Caribou Species at Risk protections in the TFL.

Reforestation in progress: growing a healthy young forest

As public land, TFL 52 remains subject to all of the forest laws and regulations that govern harvesting in any public forest in British Columbia. Our registered professional foresters who manage TFL 52 are bound by an annual allowable cut determined by the Chief Forester of B.C. and we must create management plans and forest stewardship plans for government approval. Our TFL 52 forest management plan addresses many important values such as wildlife and wildlife habitat, scenic aspects, recreational use, cultural and historic areas, water bodies and riparian areas.

On an annual basis only 1% of TFL 52’s land base is harvested. Within the area-based tenure there are protected wildlife areas like mule deer winter range and critical caribou habitat. It also supports abundant recreation opportunities such as camping, hunting, ATV trails and other businesses like cattle ranching and commercial firewood operations. A well-managed tenure ensures a stable future supply of timber for the operation of our many mills and the jobs they support in the community. TFL 52 is a key source for timber that supports five mills producing plywood, lumber, pulp, MDF and energy, all of which create direct jobs and indirect jobs in supporting businesses.

How have we responsibly increased available timber in the TFL? Here are some examples:

  • On average we replant harvested sites in our TFL in less than two years (the province of B.C. permits up to five years), new stands take root as quickly as possible after harvesting;
  • We cultivate the seedlings from the best native tree species seeds that are available;
  • We plant more trees, more closely together to ensure tall, straight, healthy trees and optimize potential volume for future harvesting in as short of a rotation as possible. A “rotation” is how long trees grow to maturity and can again be considered for harvesting. In our TFL, we have reduced sustainable rotations by as much as 40 years;
  • Like a good gardener, we are active about tending to our young forest to ensure they are protected from pests, fire, competing vegetation and weather events;
  • Our commitment to the regenerated forests goes beyond the legal requirement of 15-20 years – today, it is 64 years and counting.

The certainty provided by an area-based timber supply helps West Fraser plan more investment in forest inventory, silviculture, jobs (both employees and local contractors) and mills. These investments are made because West Fraser – and the community of Quesnel where our employees live – will be the beneficiaries of this extra effort and expense in the tenure. We know area-based tenure works because we’ve responsibly managed TFL 52 for more than 60 years and we continue to make additional investments today for a healthy, sustainable forest for the next 60 years.

Check out our follow-up story: "More than 60 Years Growing Strong in Quesnel's Tree Farm" to learn more about the first TFL we harvested in the 1950's and how it is ready for second harvest, over 60 years later.