Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y091158

    Impact of Accelerated Timber Harvesting on NTFPs in Burns Lake Community Forest
Project lead: Cocksedge, Wendy (Royal Roads University)
Contributing Authors: Cocksedge, Wendy; Royal Roads University
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
This three-year project will study the impacts of accelerated timber harvest on non-timber forest products (NTFPs) of high cultural or economic value, and develop practical strategies for compatible management in areas affected by mountain pine beetle (MPB) salvage cutting. The research will focus on a community forest tenure, where the license-holder has greater ability to manage for both timber and non-timber products and, therefore, a greater incentive for compatible management. Lessons will also be relevant for areas where First Nations have demonstrated interest in NTFPs of significant cultural and traditional value.
Accelerated timber harvesting in areas of MPB infestation is leading to widespread changes in forest ecology, particularly in the northern interior of British Columbia where the rates of infestation are highest. While the implications of these changes for sawlog production and other high-value commercial products have been well studied, there is little known about the impacts on NTFPs of high cultural or economic value. The mountain pine beetle, by effectively killing large portions of the pine forests, is inevitably affecting the distribution, abundance and quality of the understory. This in turn affects community access to and ability to use these species.
Research on methods to adequately incorporate cultural or commercial values within vegetation inventories is still at the beginning stages. Culturally used species inventory is really a focused vegetation inventory (Cocksedge 2006). This can be done as a Vegetation Resource Inventory or through tools such as Terrestrial or Predictive Ecosystem Mapping. Either approach is limited by the fact that the presence and cover of a species does not necessarily reflect the usability or quality of the plants in that location. For example, in a forest with a relatively closed canopy cover, a conventional vegetation inventory may show extensive Vaccinium cover, but under these conditions the quality of Vaccinium for berry production would likely be very low to nil due to lack of light. An inventory must therefore include an assessment of quality in order to understand ecosystem processes. We are proposing to build on preliminary method development that we have done elsewhere (see below), and test criteria and scales for a consistent assessment, for incorporation into conventional inventories.
Understanding which species are important to the local communities and how to assess and incorporate the species quality (i.e. whether it is sufficient for traditional and/or NTFP use) was initiated through FSP Y081318 (Understanding the spatial and quality attributes of culturally important non-timber forest product species in mountain pine beetle affected areas of the Cariboo-Chilcotin). In the FSP Y071318 study, team and community members identified key cultural use species, developed quality criteria for each species for a numerical rating scale which could be used within standard inventories, and sampled known high quality areas to both field test the rating system and develop correlations of habitat conditions with high quality presence. This proposal would rely heavily on these methods, but extend to different species and ecosystems in order to both expand the tools required for compatible management (quality criteria guidelines for an expanded suite of species) as well as increase our immediate understanding of forest management effects on NTFPs.
The Burns Lake Community Forest presents a good case study to further the development of research on NTFP inventory methods, species autecology and compatible management potential, as the research builds on synergies and efficiencies from other projects, including a ‘train the trainer’ workshop on NTFPs (BC Community Forest Association, 2007) and a concurrent project funded by Burns Lake Community Forest which is gathering public opinion on NTFP management, specifically within the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Burns Lake Band (BLCF). The project will benefit from established relationships, initiated capacity-building, strong interest both within the community and at the Board level, First Nation involvement at various levels and the recognized need for economic diversification and forest management adaptations due to the MPB impact. The Burns Lake Community Forest (BLCF) board, which includes members of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Burns Lake Band, Village of Burns Lake councillors, and directors from the community at large, adopted the consensus position that non-timber forest product development is a key priority for the Community Forest. The scale of operations in a community forest also allows for direct and informal personal interaction between the research team and the forest operations team in the field. This will ensure that the study matches their practical needs so that results are more likely to be directly applicable.
The project will proceed in three phases. First Nations cultural, recreational and subsistence values will be essential elements in identifying NTFP species for management intervention. Therefore, the first phase of the research project will involve extensive dialogue with First Nations leaders to ensure they can participate in the project in a way that protects their traditional knowledge and intellectual property, but assures them of benefits from the research. The Burns Lake Band and Wet’suwet’en First Nation are represented on the Board of the Burns Lake Community Forest, and are already involved in forest management.
The project will operate under the principles of participatory research, as per Bueren and Blom (1997). The first phase will involve the development of protocols for information sharing. Although there is a large body of knowledge on ethics, principles and protocols, there is little that offers practical approaches for communities to deal with actual proposals and projects. We will build on existing literature (Charnley et al 2007; Castellano 2004; Morford et al 2004; Davidson-Hunt, I. J., and F. Berkes. 2001. Turner, 2001), potential local protocols (e.g. as developed by any of the participating Nations), and work with the community to develop practical protocols for knowledge sharing within this project.
In the second phase, we will work with the community to identify key species of focus for the research. We will develop quality ratings for the identified species based on local and traditional observational knowledge, literature reviews, and previous and concurrent synergistic projects (e.g. FSP Y091160, Burton 2001; Minore 1984; Dubrasich 1978). This phase will also involve a review of information available on local species and ecosystems, including previously completed mapping (TEM/PEM, Vegetation Inventories, etc), cultural use studies and other related projects (e.g. Public opinion of NTFP management, BLCF).
The third phase will involve sampling to assess the impact of habitat conditions on species quantity and quality. Forest management plans and practices will be assessed for likely impacts on the selected NTFP species and their habitats. Field assessment will confirm inventory methods and validate impact hypotheses. Sampling will follow the Field Manual for Describing Terrestrial Ecosystems (1998), and use adapted GIF forms developed in FSP Y071318. The study will develop recommendations for compatible management of timber salvage operations and high-value NTFPs, to strengthen synergies and reduce negative impacts of salvage operations.
Related projects:  FSP_Y102158FSP_Y113158


Executive summary (1.1Mb)
Berries, Mushroom and Fiddleheads: Are They in Your Forest Management Plan? (BC Forest Professional article, March-April 2009) (0.1Mb)

To view PDF documents you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available free from the Adobe Web Site.

Updated June 06, 2011 

Search for other  FIA reports or other Ministry of Forests and Range publications.

Please direct questions or comments regarding publications to