June 21 meeting
First on the agenda was a mountain pine beetle program update from Jennifer MacCormick of Alberta Ag & Forestry. It was brief; MacCormick said x number of infected trees had been ‘controlled’ last winter, and y more had been surveyed. She said she would “be surprised,” if the numbers this year aren’t similar to last year.
Wildfire Operations Officer Kevin Parkinson of the Slave Lake Fire Centre – filling in for Leah Lovequist – reported on the arrival of heavy amounts of lighting across the north of the province. Fire season has been relatively slow this year, he said (but with the thunderstorm activity it got busier rather quickly). At the time of his report there had been 138 fires in the district, most of them caused by humans.
Patti Campsall of the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory and Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation reported that the spring banding season was the slowest in the 25-years of the banding program. Lots of birds were observed flying over, she said, but fewer were descending and being caught.
On the other hand, the variety of species netted and banded was higher than usual (48)
The fall banding season begins on July 12.
LSL Regional Forest Management Plan
Presented by Constance Chan of West Fraser and Kyle Chisholm of Vanderwell Contractors, this is a big project that isn’t expected to be complete before 2021. It’s supposed to involve public input at every stage and has included “several public meetings” so far, Chan said.
How has attendance been? she was asked.
“A few,” she said. “When the sequence comes out there’ll be more interest.”
That would be the ‘where and when’ of harvesting.
The participation of First Nations in the plan – another mandated requirement – is in process as well. ‘It’s going,” was how Chan put it. She was not asked to elaborate.
Another part of the plan is a timber inventory, which Chan said was 75 per cent complete. Overall, the LSLRFMP is 15 per cent complete.
One aspect of a forest management plan is something called ‘VOIT,’ or ‘VOITs.’ This refers to a set of values, objectives, indicators and targets. There’s a whole list of values prescribed by the provincial government. An example of a ‘value’ is reforestation. Developers of the plan must show how the value of reforestation after logging is to be accomplished, by stating an objective (say ending up with as many or more trees on a block as there were before logging), then something that indicates how the objective is being achieved and finally a concrete measurable end point, or ‘target.’ There are dozens of such VOITs, and Chan and Chisholm hoped, by way of offering a few examples, to get some useful feedback on the process.
One question from a member of the group was how, in practical terms, the VOIT document would be applied, given that it covers the operations of three distinct companies.
“Good question,” said Tracey Courser of West Fraser. “We’re working it out.”
What if you don’t reach the goal of 100 per cent reforestation? was another question.
Alberta has some of the toughest penalties in Canada, was the answer.
‘Different rules seem to apply’
Stephen Vinnedge of West Fraser stopped in from that company’s Quesnel office to update the group on West Fraser’s efforts to achieve Forest Stewardship Council wood certification. It appears to be an arduous process – possibly also an unfair one – but apparently the company thinks it’s worth it. What it gets for anyone who makes the cut, Vinnedge explained, is that certain wood customers will buy your product. The certification shows that the wood is not from a plantation, that it isn’t coming from an area where animal species are being wiped out, that it isn’t genetically modified and so on.
West Fraser’s efforts to not make the caribou disappear any faster than it already is are part of the story here. Vinnedge said in the range of the Slave Lake herd, for example, West Fraser has no plans to harvest for 15 to 30 years. As for the Nipisi herd – no harvest plans for 20 – 30 years, apart from fire salvage.
Maintaining something called NRV, or ‘natural range of variation’ is another thing that the FSC requires for its stamp of approval. That is generally being accomplished across the landscape by West Fraser, Vinnedge said. If anything, he added, “it’s exceeded on the side of old growth.”
“It’s really world-leading stuff,” Vinnedge said in conclusion. “To say the forest is disappearing (apparently some are saying this) is ludicrous.”
Getting back to the unfairness of the FSC certification system, Vinnedge said “the bar keeps being raised in Canada,” while remaining lower in some other states. He mentioned South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia, where the FSC blessing has been bestowed.
“Different rules seem to apply,” he said.