Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project S084006

    Synthesis of knowledge and development of huckleberry management recommendations in BC.
Project lead: Hamilton, Evelyn (BC Ministry of Forests and Range)
Author: Keefer, Michael E.
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Non-timber forest products (NTFP) are an important part of our forest resource in British Columbia. Huckleberry plants (Vaccinium spp.) are considered a valuable non-timber forest product but there is serious concern about the management of lands to ensure a sustainable supply of berries (Gayton 2000, Gagné et al. 2004, Richards and Alexander 2006). Fire suppression and some current forestry practices (e.g. mechanical site preparation) may have a detrimental effect on berry producing shrubs (Burton 1998). Furthermore, there is an increasing global demand for huckleberries as a nutraceutical, which may further tax long term berry supply (Tom Hobby pers. com. 2006). Huckleberries have a long history of human use by First Nations people as well recreational and commercial harvesters (Gottesfeld 1994, Turner 1997, Boyd 1999, Keefer & McCoy 1999, Hamilton 2000, Richards and Alexander 2006). Recent surveys have shown that many First Nations people across the province use this resource as an important source of food and income (Hamilton et al. 2003). There is also an active commercial and recreational berry harvest in BC’s interior. Huckleberries are also vital for wildlife, including bears, birds, and small rodents. It is particularly important for grizzly bear populations where this fruit dominants the fall diet and is considered a critical fall food (Rode and Robbins 2000, McLellan and Hovey 1995; Beaudry et al. 2001). Grizzly bears, in the Flathead area of southeastern BC, are known to gain over a kilogram per day eating berries prior to hibernating (McLellan pers. comm. 2006). Because grizzly bears are considered a species at risk there is concern that current land management practices and intense human competition could lead to shortages of this resource which could ultimately threaten grizzly populations.
Black huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) is believed to be the most important huckleberry species in BC and its distribution is amongst the broadest (Hauessler et al. 1990, Wilson 2000). V. membranaceum is believed to fruit most abundantly in key ecosytems (Hamilton et al. 2003). Vaccinium spp are known to be enhanced by burning (Stark & Baker 1992, Krech 1999, Trussler 2001, Hamilton & Peterson 2003, US FEIS 2005). Other forest management practices such as thinning and pruning can also stimulate huckleberry production (Minore et al. 1979, Kerns et al. 2004, Turner 1991). However, specific information on huckleberry management in B.C. is not widely available and existing management guidelines are limited in scope, and/or have not been widely distributed to practioners (MOF 1992, Barney 1999, Burton et al. 2000, Beaudry et al. 2001 Applied Ecosystem Management 2002, Hamilton et al. 2003, Center for Non Timber Resources 2006). This project will address this significant gap.
It is imperative that land managers, First Nations and the public who use the forest or affect its use, have access to practical knowledge about how to incorporate non-timber forest products into resource management plans. To achieve successful management of huckleberries we propose to compile existing information about management practices that effect huckleberry production and make this information available to resource managers in the form of draft guidelines. By improving resource manager’s access to information on huckleberry enhancement, we will be creating better wildlife habitat and economic and subsistence opportunities for rural British Columbians.


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Updated August 16, 2010 

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