Slave Lake Forest Public Advisory Committee Notebook

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

People with an interest in how the forests are being managed can find out lots by attending the meetings of the Slave Lake Forest Public Advisory Committee (PAC). Not many did at the PAC’s spring meeting on May 25, but luckily, The Leader was there.
Here’s some of what we learned:

Mountain pine beetle
Efforts to ‘control’ the eastward spread of this destructive pest continue. Jennifer MacCormick of Alberta Ag & Forestry reported to the group that this past winter in the Slave Lake district, 2,600 sites were treated, with 21,000 infected trees destroyed. That’s up from 15,000 last year. Provincially, MacCormick said, the numbers were 14,000 sites and 91,000 trees. Elsewhere in the province, some areas were down and others were up.
The battle continues. Crews will be doing aerial surveys this summer to identify spots where pine trees have died. Those will be the ones that are visited on the ground later in the year to determine if the pine beetle is in fact present and in winter they will be burned.
What about infected logs coming to mills?
They are processed right away, said Mike Haire of Vanderwell Contractors. And the beetles (or their larvae) don’t survive the heat of the drying kiln.

More human than otherwise
Tanis Blocka of the Slave Lake Fire Centre reported that there were a dozen new fires over the May long weekend, and that humans were the leading cause, by a 9 – 3 score.
Blocka also spoke about a prescribed fire near Pelican Lake that was planned for the following week. It had already been put off three times, she said. (As it turned out, it was put off again because the weather warmed up and got windy.) The burn is being done – at least in part – as a research project into fire behaviour.

Lots of FMA planning
Kyle Chisholm of Vanderwell Contractors reported on the progress of a large-scale forest management plan for what’s called the ‘joint FMA.’ This is an area north and northeast of Lesser Slave Lake (mostly) that used to be the Tolko FMA. For some time it has been jointly planned and managed by Tolko, Vanderwell’s and West Fraser, as the three companies that have timber harvesting rights and responsibilities in it. The plan is re-done every 10 years, and deals with a 20-year period into the future.
One important aspect of it is how much timber can be harvested in that period. This depends on something called an ‘AVI’, or a timber inventory. Parts of that are completed, but others not, Chisholm said.
The province requires the companies to include the public in the planning process. Accordingly, more PAC meetings will be coming up in the fall, as well as open houses specific to the plan. A website is being developed as well.

FSC – controlled wood
The group heard (over the phone) from Stephen Vinnedge of West Fraser on that company’s project of getting the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) stamp of approval on its wood products. Apparently a lot of customers want to know that the lumber they buy is not from plantations or genetically modified, among other considerations. Wood from “non-controversial sources,” in other words.
Vinnedge said KPMG will be doing an audit of the company in this regard, in June and welcomes comments from PAC members.

Vanderwell Contractors
Leading off the individual forest company reports, Mike Haire (Vanderwell Contractors’ Woodlands Manager) said the winter got off to “a terrible start,” but finished with a good March, allowing the company to fill the yards with enough logs to get through the summer.
As for the mill – “steady as she goes,” Haire said. It’s not at full capacity, but getting fairly close.
On the silviculture front, Vanderwell’s will be doing a spring plant for the first time in a long time. It’ll replace 15-year-old trees wiped out in a 2015 wildfire along the Wabasca highway. The project is being funded by the provincial government through a program called WRP (Wildfire Reclamation Program).

Tolko: ‘Working quite well…’
Sherman Horsman of Tolko Industries said about 844,000 cubic metres of wood was delivered to the mill last year. The mill, he added, “is working quite well right now.”
Plans are to start logging in July this year – which is about a month later than last year. Areas to be logged this summer include west Fawcett Lake and around Doucette Tower.

West Fraser
Todd Bailey said the three mills (two in Slave Lake and one in High Prairie) consumed about 1.5 million cubic metres of wood last year. After “a difficult winter” for hauling, plans are to start summer logging earlier than usual. It’s challenging, he said, due to wet conditions.

Trapper concerns
On the topic of involvement in forest management planning, trapper Darrel Walde made a plea for trappers’ input earlier, rather than later in the process. Mitigating the impact of forest harvesting on traplines is a big concern for him and other trappers.
“Don’t wait too long,” to include the trappers, he urged.
Trapper Dave Shupac had a couple of suggestions. One was to leave stands of younger trees, instead of taking them because it is convenient at the time to do so. Another suggestion was to preserve access for trappers after logging operations are finished in an area. It is not the first time Shupac has brought up the same concern at PAC meetings.

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