Is selective felling possible in BC's coastal forests?

sitka at sitka at
Sat Jan 31 21:34:32 EST 1998

Some interesting questions Theo.  Unfortunately there is no simple answer.

Further to the 1/31/97 response from Don Staples, I'd like to share some
first hand knowledge of selective harvesting potential in coastal British
Columbia. After working throughout the mid and north coast forest
districts in BC now for close to a decade as a professional forester I've
have seen the of best and worst of BC's forest management policies and
licensees in action.  For the past 5 years I've been managing a program
which develops and sells area based timber sale licenses to clients on a
competitive basis (akin to the state and federal timber sales down south
in Washington and Oregon).  With an annual cut of approx. 160 000 m3/yr
(roughly 36 million bdft) the Small Business Program is a major coastal
player in all forest districts when measured against other major licensee
tenures such as Tree Farms Licenses (area based tenure)or Forest Licenses
(volume based tenure).

In the mid and north coast districts the vast majority of timber
development areas are situated in very isolated coastal tidewater based
locations.  Access is by helicopter, fixed wing plane, barge or boat.  In
general, the bulk of the largest watersheds tend to be oriented in the
mid coast while further north they tend to diminish in size, quality and
quantity of operable timber.  The dominant method of
harvest/silvicultural system with the majors (TFLs & FLs) is most
definitely via clearfell systems - ie. all the trees in a harvest unit
are felled, yarded via highlead tower or grapple yarders to a series of
landings and then forwarded via logging truck to a log dump at tidewater.
 These days our small business program operates in a similar fashion to
that of the majors with the bulk of our cut coming from watershed based
development areas (approximately 20 active drainages at the current time)
which use clearfell/truck forwarding systems.

In historical terms we use to harvest a far higher proportion of our
Small Business Program Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) through selective
harvest methods (upwards of 300 ha/yr or roughly 70 000m3/yr).	These
selective methods utilized a rudimentary system called "handlogging"
which is about as low tech as one could get.  Essentially a couple of men
would selectively fall (highgrade) trees in their timber sale area
located along the ocean shoreline and then yard (pull) logs directly into
the ocean via ropes and a boat. Unfortunately, this selective approach
had several major flaws in that it was both unsustainable and
ecologically damaging as practiced.

Depending on which biogeoclimatic zone you are in on the coast old growth
or unmanaged stands tend to be dominated by large diameter spruce,
douglas-fir, western hemlock and western redcedar.  Unfortunately,
handloggers had the tendency to log the best and leave the worst
(highgrade) resulting in hundreds of kilometers of essentially degraded
coastal forest.  From the water or an Alaskan ferry heading up the inside
passage these areas still look pristine however from inside the canopy
they stink.  Although I and my counterpart in the mid coast still
continue to develop and sell a small proportion of these types of sales
its done more for social welfare reasons than because it utilizes a
selective or ecologically appropriate approach.

Enough background BS for you .  In answer to your specific questions:

> Greenpeace in Canada and other environmntal groups are calling for a
> policy of selective logging only (no clearcuts) in the temperate
> conniferous rainforests on the BC coast. Envirometal groups in Europe
> that are working in support of Canadian forest protection are taking a
> lead from Greenpeace and thus proposing selective felling. The European
> environmental NGO and consumer concern for Canadian foretry is valid, as
> Europe is a major importer of BC paper and pulp and a minor importer,
> but of the highest grades only, of sawn timber from BC.

Greenpeace is well aware that BCs use of clearfell sivicultural systems
is both ecologically appropriate and an economic necessity.  The real
issue here Theo is not whether clearcutting is good or bad (its good by
the way) its are we harvesting BCs forests in a sustainable fashion
(we're not).

> I would like folks opinions on the practical technical possibility of
> this type of felling, given:
> 1. the size of the trees, typically 2 foot/60cm to 5 foot/150 cm dbh.

Piece size is not the only factor which must be considered here. 
Selective harvesting can only be accomplished in these parts on stands
which are of the highest value and where it is ecologically appropriate
(ie. the species you are harvesting is shade tolerant and regenerates
under the remaining overstory canopy).	Given our steep terrain and
sensitive soils ground based systems such as skidders or
feller-forwarders are not viable no safe.  Overhead cable systems such as
grapple or highlead has not worked well on a large scale due to high
costs and residual damage to remaining stems.  This leaves helicopter
logging which in a selective system can easily exceed $100/m3.

>  2. Slopes wich are commonly up to 30 degrres (or sometimes more).

See above comments.  The vast majority of my operable ground is in 40-70%
side slopes.  Forget the fluff you heard about horse-logging - I can
barely walk up and down it some days let along a horse.

If people think it is not technically possible, then:
> 3. What is the smallest clearcut that can be worked?

The Forest Practice Code (implemented in June 1995) does not permit
harvest units to exceed 40ha in size except under very unique
circumstances.	Of the 100+ or so timber sales that my program has
planned over the next 7 years (we do long-term development planning) the
vast majority are less than 30ha in size.  Given that economics is
everything there is no pat rule of thumb to your answer.  I recall
developing and selling a clearfell sale in mid coast several years back
that was 2ha.  However, it was easily accessible by road and had a
relatively high stand value.  On the outer coast the cost of barging,
transport and logging costs (approx. $55/m3 for cable & $85/m3 for heli)
bumps the average break-even stand size up to around 20-25ha.

4. And what are the financial implications of selection and/or smallest
> clearcut possible?

See above.

> Personally, I would like to see selective felling in these forests, but
> having seen these forests (fantastic!), my own semi-layman's oppinion is
> that it would be very difficult.
> Theo Hopkins
> Lower Champles Wood
> Devon
> England.

Hope this helps Theo.  Give me a holler if you'd like some more detailed
info. Its pretty tough to distill a complex answer to the level that
Greenpeace operates at.


Shawn Hedges, RPF
Prince Rupert, BC

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