British Columbia

Clear-cutting, climate change threaten fir reforestation in B.C. Interior, report says

The drying power of hotter summers means replanted seedlings need extra shade, which is in short supply in clear-cut areas, says Kevin Kriese, chair of the Forest Practices Board.

Seedlings being deprived of moist shade they need in order to grow in hotter summers, forestry watchdog says

A Forest Practices Board report found that trees in 44 of the 69 dry Interior Douglas fir forest sites it examined hadn't grown to a healthy height as expected due to the drier and hotter climate. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)

Climate change and poor logging practices are threatening the regeneration of dry-belt forests in B.C.'s southern Interior, according to a report by an independent forestry watchdog.

Sixty per cent of reforested land examined by researchers from the B.C. Forest Practices Board had not grown back to a healthy height and clear-cutting may be to blame, said the board's chair Kevin Kriese.  

The drying power of hotter summers means replanted seedlings need extra shade, which is in short supply in clear-cut areas, he said.

"The plant needs to find a little spot on the site that's a bit moister," said Kriese. "They [the trees] need to find spots that might be in the shelter of a log." 

The report, released Thursday, says the B.C. government needs to make it mandatory for logging companies to follow reforestation standards.

The board investigated Douglas fir tree sites in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, Cascades, Thompson Rivers and Okanagan-Shuswap Natural Resource Districts that were logged between 2007 and 2017.

Its report found that trees in 44 of the 69 dry Interior Douglas fir forest sites it examined hadn't grown to a healthy height as expected due to the drier and hotter climate. Inability of the trees to develop into a full-grown forest might impact the sustainability of timber supply and wildlife habitats, the report said.

Systemic gaps in knowledge, report says

There are systemic gaps in knowledge and experience in reforesting fir sites, the board says.

One of the best practices is partial cutting of trees in a forest site in order to provide the shade for trees to regenerate, the report says — but the logging industry often clear-cuts most of the trees in an area.

"There are recommended best practices that you need to follow very carefully on each site that weren't always being followed," Kriese said. 

"Both at the foresters' side and even on the contractors' side, there's a lot of knowledge that's been lost on how to manage these sites," he added.

The report recommends the province reassess its long-term reforestation objectives, and to make reforestation standards easier for the logging industry to follow.

Interior Douglas fir forest covers about five per cent of B.C.'s landmass.

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With files from Matt Meuse

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