Public Influenence on Reforestation in British Columbia

Factors Behind the Recent Change in Public Opinion

New Government Policies and Funding

1985 - Forest Resource Development Agreement

The turning of the reforestation "tide" in British Columbia began back in 1985, with the commencement of the 1985 - 1990 Canada-British

Columbia Forest Resource Development Agreement (FRDA). This agreement provided $200 million targeted directly at the Backlog NSR. Significantly. the agreement also committed the province to no net increase in the NSR backlog. The accepted figure for the backlog became the 738 000 ha reported in the 1984 resource analysis, and is what the Ministry of Forests has been tracking ever since. By the end of the agreement on March 31, 1990, backlog NSR had been reduced by over 40%.

1987 - Forest Policy and Legislation Changes

The next major event came in late 1987/early 1988 when the Government of British Columbia amended the Forest Act and introduced accompanying regulations on reforestation practices. As a result of this legislation:

  • before harvesting Crown timber, a silviculture prescription must be prepared, submitted and approved;

  • after harvesting, a free-growing crop of ecologically and commercially suitable trees must be established to the standards and within the time frames set out in the silviculture prescription;

  • companies with long term tenures must bear the cost of reforesting the areas they harvest, including the cost of tree seedlings;

  • where reforestation remains a ministry responsibility, silviculture costs are recovered through timber pricing; and

  • the government committed itself to reforesting areas lost to wildfire or insect infestations, and to paying for the reforestation of areas harvested by industry between 1982 and 1987 (with FRDA targeted to areas harvested pre-1982).

    These actions effectively stopped the leakage from current to backlog NSR. The latest audits of recently harvested areas where reforestation is in progress show over 92% of audited areas being projected as likely to be successful. By law, those areas not projected to be successful must be remedied.

    Figure 5
    Figure 5. Backlog NSR on good and medium sites has decreased from 738 000 ha in 1984 to 238 000 ha in 1993. The goal is to entirely eliminate this backlog by the year 2000.

    1990 - Commitment to Eliminate the Backlog

    In 1990, with FRDA I having expired, the government of B.C. made a commitment to eliminate the backlog NSR on good and medium sites by the year 2000. This backlog has now been reduced, through a combination of planting and detailed surveys, from 738 000 ha in 1984 to 238 000 ha in 1993 (Figure 5). However, as we come closer to accomplishing the goal of eliminating the backlog, other factors may come into play which will influence our ability to achieve it. For example, biodiversity and wildlife requirements may mean leaving some areas unstocked or at reduced stocking levels.

    1992 - Commission on Resources and Environment

    Although not directly involved with reforestation, the Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE), established by law in 1992, has a mandate to "develop for public and government consideration a British Columbia-wide strategy for land use and related resource and environmental management" (CORE Act, s.4(1)). CORE has recently recommended a provincial land use strategy, to be supported by a recommended Sustainability Act (CORE, 1994). This, together with a number of other generally well-received CORE recommendations, such as regional land use plans. community resource boards, and dispute resolution mechanisms, sets a framework within which the recent positive public opinion on issues related to reforestation reside.

    1994 - Forest Practices Code

    The Government of British Columbia recently passed the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act. This Act, along with Regulations, Standards and Field Guides forms the Forest Practices Code. The guiding principle behind the Code is the sustainable use of the forests we hold in trust for future generations. In response to public concerns about forestry practices, the Act puts the force of law into changing the way the forests are managed in British Columbia.

    The Code brings together under one umbrella many rules and regulations governing forest practices that were scattered over many hundreds of documents. For example, the Code now embodies the rules and regulations which came about following the 1987 policy and legislation changes mentioned previously. These include such matters as species diversity, stocking standards, and free-growing standards for newly reforested areas.

    The Forest Practices Code addresses public concerns on clearcutting, first, by setting mandatory limits on the size of cutblocks, and secondly, by requiring a silvicultural system other than clearcutting be used in specified circumstances, such as:

  • on sites with unstable terrain;

  • where it is incompatible with visual objectives;

  • in wildlife habitat areas where the forest canopy is essential to maintain the animal population;

  • in old-growth management areas; and

  • along important fisheries streams or main streams in community watersheds.

    The Code places considerable emphasis on protecting forest soil from excessive disturbance due to logging road construction, skid trails and silvicultural systems. Terrain hazard assessments and mapping of sensitive soil areas are now required across the entire province.

    1994 - Forest Land Reserve Act

    The recently passed Forest Land Reserve Act enables Crown and certain private managed forest land to be placed in a forest land reserve. Processes for removing lands from the reserve are designated. The Act also enables the new Forest Practices Code to apply to private lands within the reserve. This will tighten specifications and controls on reforestation of these lands following harvesting.

    1994 - Forest Renewal Plan

    The Forest Renewal Plan was established by legislation in 1994. The plan targets an estimated $400 million a year from increased stumpage and royalty revenues for investment in the forests, the people who work in the forests and their communities. Planned silviculture expenditures by the fund were $32 million in 1994. Projects include afforestation of marginal agricultural lands, conversion of non-commercial brush areas to productive forest, and pruning and spacing to create high quality stands.

    Improved Silviculture Practices and Regeneration Success

    Better Seedling Survival

    Seedling survival rates have increased substantially over the last few years from 54% in 1982 to 87% in 1988 and have remained at or above this level since then (Figure 6). This can be attributed to a number of factors which are covered in the following sections.

    Figure 6. Average seedling survival all species and stock types has increased from 54% in 1982 to 87% in 1988 and has remained at or above this level since then.

    New Biogeoclimatic Classification System

    Since the early 1980's, British Columbia has been implementing an ecologically-based management system unparalleled in scope and usefulness. The biogeoclimatic classification system uses climate, soil and vegetation data to identify over 600 different ecosystems. Today, foresters are using this system to make sound ecological decisions for every treatment they prescribe, including species selection.

    Nineteen tree species, as well as spruce hybrids, are now being planted in the province. Two or more tree species are now often planted in combination on the same site.

    Maintaining biodiversity over such a broad range of ecosystems is a challenge. However, a 1992 study found that, whereas 32% of forests are monocultures before harvesting, only 29 % of new forests were monocultures 5-15 years after harvesting, primarily due to the in-growth of natural seedlings (B.C. Ministry of Forests, 1992). Using guides based on the biogeoclimatic classification system, foresters prepare silviculture prescriptions which, by law under the Forest Practices Code, must plan to maintain biodiversity.

    Improved Stock Types and Seedling Vigour

    In 1993, 33 different stock types were grown in B.C. nurseries, compared to only nine stock types in 1987. Over 27% of the seedlings being grown are large stock types, an almost six-fold increase in the last seven years.

    Approximately 90% of the seedlings currently being grown in the province's nurseries are in containers, the remainder being bareroot. Improved nursery culture, as a result of a competitive nursery business, has provided high quality seedlings at a reasonable price.

    A great deal of training in careful stock handling has been directed at workers involved in the planting program. As a result, seedlings are remaining vigourous from the nursery to the planting site.

    Genetically Improved Seed

    New legislation requires that, where available, genetically improved seed must be used. Tree breeding programs are now providing an ever increasing supply of genetically improved seed for the reforestation program. Approximately 25 million seedlings were planted in 1993 from such seed and by the year 2000 it is forecast that 50 % of the seedlings, or about 100 million, will be from such seed.

  • More and Improved Site Preparation

    There is a greater emphasis on tailoring site preparation to the forest ecosystems being treated. From 1982 to 1987 the amount of site preparation on Crown land more than tripled (Figure 7). Foresters have responded to public opinion and have significantly reduced burning in favour of mechanical site preparation. In 1993, the amount of area prepared by mechanical means (98 000 ha) was more than double the area prepared by prescribed fire (41 000 ha), whereas as recently as 1987 the relative proportions were the reverse. Better techniques and equipment, and lower costs, have made the switch possible. Disc trenching and mounding are now the most common types of site preparation in B.C.

    Brushing and Spacing

    Young seedlings must be protected from brush and excessive tree competition which would choke them out or seriously inhibit their growth. Over the last eleven years, both brushing and spacing have increased substantially.

    A national poll indicated that a large majority of people (71 %) oppose the use of chemicals in the forest to control brush (Environics, 1989) . As a result, the amount of chemical use in B.C. decreased between 1989 and 1991 (Figure 8). It has remained relatively constant at this lower level since then.

    Chemicals are now used as one of many available treatment options in the control of brush. Manual methods and the use of sheep grazing for brush control have increased considerably.

    Figure 7. Prescribed burning has given way to mechanical site preparation.

    Figure 8
    Figure 8. The total area brushed and spaced has increased substantially over the last 1I years. Chemical brushing has decreased recently in response to environmental concerns.

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