Independent study finds B.C.’s forests are regenerating very well

Victoria – A Forest Practices Board study has found that forest licensees, government and forestry professionals have done an excellent job of ensuring most trees replanted in 6,488 cutblocks across the province are growing into healthy forests.

Each year, more than 200 million seedlings are planted in B.C. Following the logging of public land, forest companies are required to reforest sites with native tree species to establish a new crop of trees. The companies are then required to tend those trees for a number of years, to ensure they survive and grow into a healthy new forest by a specified date. Once they reach this stage, called free-growing, the companies are relieved of their responsibility to look after the trees and they become the responsibility of the Crown.

The board study looked at the first 6,488 cutblocks required to be free-growing since the current rules were established in 1987. Overall, the results of the study are excellent. Across the province, 85 per cent of cutblocks are free-growing, and on average, these cutblocks reached free-growing status three years early. The board also found that, of 291 cutblocks with a high risk of not reaching free-growing status, 99 per cent of the area was indeed free-growing.

“Behind this success is a system of strong professional training and information exchange between foresters, government and silviculturalists. We encourage all involved to keep this up,” said board member John Cuthbert. “Replacing logged forests is one of the greatest concerns the public has about forest management in B.C., which is why the board decided to undertake this study, and we’re pleased to report these positive findings to the public.”

For 15 per cent of cutblocks that did not completely achieve free-growing status, the main reason was patches of competing brush. A failure to achieve free-growing status on time accounted for 220 cutblocks, and 918 had the deadline extended. The fieldwork indicates that most of these sites are likely free-growing, but a portion of the cutblocks has competing brush that needs to be removed before the whole site can be considered free-growing.

Achievement of free-growing status is also an example of results-based forestry and provides an interesting assessment of this approach to forest management. Forest companies are required to achieve free-growing status within a certain time period, but they are not told how to do that. It is up to the companies to meet the free-growing standard however they choose. In this case, the approach is working.

The study consisted of a combination of field review and analysis of the Ministry of Forests’ silviculture database, which keeps track of reforested sites across the province. The study covered 6,488 cutblocks that were logged between October 1987 and December 1992 and required to be free-growing by August 2002. Over 291 cutblocks were examined on the ground.

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog that publishes reports about compliance with forest-practices legislation and the achievement of its intent. The board’s main roles are:

Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
Auditing government enforcement of the code.
Investigating public complaints.
Undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues.
Participating in administrative reviews and appeals.
Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

Jacqueline Waldorf
Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 356-1586 / 1 800 994-5899