Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y103271

    Evaluating the Ecological, Economic, and Social Trade-Offs of Managing for Valued Plants and Other Non-Timber Forest Products
Project lead: Evelyn Pinkerton (Simon Fraser University)
Contributing Authors: de Ville, Naomi; Lertzman, Kenneth P.; Pinkerton, Evelyn; Simpcw First Nation; Ignace, Ron; Ignace, Marianne
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Plant species distribution and abundance is determined by many variables, including climate, soil moisture and nutrients, and disturbance. This study controls for climate, soil moisture and nutrients by selecting treatment sites on the same or similar site series. This allows us to examine the effects of disturbance on development of plant communities.
Forestry is one of the most extensive and intensive means of site disturbance in British Columbia. The silviculture systems selected are important determinants of plant species presence and abundance. Light burning was used traditionally by First Nations to optimize the production of edible berries such as black huckleberry, low-bush blueberry and other desirable edible plants such as avalanche lily, camas, tarweed, and Indian potato. In contemporary times, mushrooms which are abundant immediately following a burn also make this practice valued. Studies of historical natural and human-induced fire regimes in the Southern Interior suggest that historical stand structures were fire adapted and that valued plants as well had adapted to 5-13 year fire intervals in which smaller amounts of ground fuel produced lower-intensity fires. First Nations are now concerned that valued plants may be either crowded out by conventional forest practices or killed in higher-intensity fires. This study explores an alternative silvicultural option for approaching this apparent problem, one which mimics traditional burning practices.

The research examining the response of culturally valued understorey plants to alternative forest practices in British Columbia’s Southern Interior is being conducted by a research team from the Simon Fraser University (SFU) in collaboration with the Kamloops Indian Band (KIB) and the University of Toronto (UofT). Two master’s students at SFU, an aboriginal undergraduate student at SFU’s Kamloops campus, and a post-doctoral researcher at the UofT are working with experienced foresters and knowledgeable elders from the KIB and their neighbours to find out what the ecological, economic, and social trade-offs are for forest management practices that include traditional forms of applied burning. The research will produce information that can inform the discussion between First Nations, industry, and government about new approaches to the following questions: (1) How do we manage for culturally valued plants as well as timber? (2) How do we calculate the costs and benefits of various trade-offs in doing so? (3) How do modern practices that mimic traditional aboriginal burning practices affect today’s forests?
The research is being conducted on mountain pine beetle (MPB)-affected forest tenures in the Montane Spruce biogeoclimatic zone, which are licensed to the Tk’emlupsemc Forestry Development Corporation (TFDC) or are on territory traditionally shared with their neighbours, the Simpcw First Nation (the North Thompson Indian Band). The undergraduate researcher is a Simpcw band member, and the majority of the available elders who will be interviewed about the condition of plants and the value they place on them are from this band. The TFDC manages the licences on behalf of the KIB. Their RPF, Jim McGrath, initiated the idea for the research, and donates his time to assist whenever possible.
The Montane Spruce dry mild variant (MSdm) was selected as the study ecosystem because the canopy mixture, containing Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, interior Douglas-fir, and subalpine fir, makes it desirable for timber harvesting while its transitional nature makes it a suitable habitat for the proliferation of shrubs and herbs such as black huckleberry, black gooseberry, saskatoon, soopallalie, kinnikinnick, juniper, wild strawberry, bunchberry, arnica, and pinegrass— all traditionally valued for a variety of food, medicinal, and spiritual purposes. In addition, the MSdm occurs at mid-elevations on the plateau north of Kamloops where the 2003 McClure fire swept across this west side of the North Thompson River in the Gorman Lake watershed. This offers researchers a unique opportunity to comparatively study the regeneration of understorey vegetation communities following natural fire and applied fire.
Since the proposal stage, the research has evolved in two ways. The ecological data collected now includes not only documentation of the existence and condition of valued understorey plants, but also site and forest structural data allowing an analysis of successional patterns and stand dynamics. Hemispheric photography is being used as a measure of how variations in canopy structure and associated light transmissions affect the spatial heterogeneity, growth, and development of valued plants.
This evolution also affects our response to the probability that it will not be possible to conduct the applied burn, which was to constitute one of our five experimental treatments. The TFDC has done all the initial preparation to log the area which was to constitute the partial retention/applied burn scenario in the research, but has not been able to log. The approvals to log were originally delayed because of weather: hot, fire risk conditions in late July - August went to wet and unstable soils through the fall that would have been against all environmental precautions if machinery were used and logging had occurred. It was because of these conditions in the first year that we were able to conduct a pre-treatment inventory in those blocks. Then the markets started creating problems later that fall (2007), which is why we were not able to log in the winter, which is often the optimal time because then those fire weather and boggy conditions are absent. Then we went through the market uncertainties of seeing if it was still possible to sell the timber as saw logs, then trying to sell it as pulp. Each stage required a set of new calculations, and for a short time it looked as if it would happen. Then this possibility evaporated in the summer 2008. Jim McGrath now informs us the logging and burn could occur this spring only if the market improves by late January, which we consider unlikely. Therefore, we are planning for another eventuality, while still keeping open the original plan.
In this other eventuality, rather than a comparison of the effects of partial retention logging with prescribed burning on the vegetation as was originally proposed, we intend to analyze the effect of mountain pine beetle kill on the light transmission/forest structure, understorey, and forest regeneration over the time scale of 2 years as the pine trees move from red attack to grey and lose all their needles.
The elders’ interviews are being conducted as planned, and will be completed April-July 2009, along with verification with elders and follow-up questions to test hypotheses generated by the interviews in the first season. Information supplied by elders includes not only their observations of the condition and location of plants compared to their expectations, but also their current and past use of plant, their recollections of traditional burning practices, and how much they value plants compared to logging. This latter question will be facilitated by the post-doctoral student of Shashi Kant (UofT), who will either visit the plots with elders and community leaders, or will work with them in focus groups or community meetings to discuss trade-offs.
Related projects:  FSP_Y081271FSP_Y092271


Journal Article: Journal of Ethnobiology 29(2): 339-358 (0.4Mb)
Executive Summary (13Kb)
SoE Poster: Natural Disturbances and Forest Management: Effects on Culturally Significant Understory Plant Communites (0.9Mb)
Abstract for Society of Ethnobiology 33rd annual meetings, May 2010 (11Kb)
Secwepemc Workshop schedule (95Kb)
Poster: Secwepemc Landscape Burning Practices: Views from Practitioners (0.5Mb)
Abstract: Secwepemc Landscape Burning Practices: Views from Practitioners (11Kb)
Simpwc workshop presentation 1 (5.4Mb)
Simpwc workshop presentation 2 (4.2Mb)

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Updated August 19, 2010 

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