A New Safety Certification System for the Forest Industry


Are you aware that the forest industry is working on a program that will reduce costs, create efficient operations and reduce paperwork?  With the help of the BC Forest Safety Council, industry is renewing the prequalification system that is better known as SAFE Companies certification.

What is a prequalification system anyway?  In this case, it is a process to check if a company has the necessary procedures and processes in place to be a safe, high quality and reliable organization. 

Notes from the field


No planter can deny sharing in our collective “what good is this job?” cynicism. We’ve all taken pleasure in the rants and criticisms, minimizing our status to ditch digging labourers.  And let’s face it, some aspects can leave you broken and bound to the quick-money, seasonal lifestyle. But after this last winter, I have a new appreciation for the hard and soft skills I’ve earned from my time in the bush.

Managing Exotic Invasive Species in Ontario’s Hardwood Forests: How landowners and woodlot managers can protect their forest ecosystems


Exotic invasive species (EIS) are plants, insects or pathogens that, either intentionally or not, have been introduced to a new habitat where they have the ability to cause harm to the environment, the economy and/or society.  A variety of EIS are detrimental to the hardwood forests of Ontario. For example, invasive plants can alter forest integrity through rapid population expansion. They can out-compete many native species and cause shifts in species abundances, thereby altering the forest ecosystem.

Generating Revenues from Carbon Credit Sales: It’s All About the Inventory


In the Spring 2013 edition of “Silviculture”, John Betts made a compelling argument that British Columbia might be long past due for a forest inventory update.  He also reasonably argued that before we embark on such an initiative, we should review and possibly revise our inventory goals, before we start measuring.

Whoa, Neighbour: How privately managed forest land owners broke the social contract


In a universe parallel to the one Rod Bealing describes in “Public Attention for Private Forests” (Silviculture Magazine, Spring 2013), the communities adjacent to lands regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act aren’t hearing “Howdy, neighbour.” They’re hearing, “Please look the other way while we rip the heart out of your tourism industry, ruin your drinking watershed, close down opportunities for permanent forest jobs, deliver the final blow to declining fish runs, convert forest land into real estate developments and intensify the impacts that climate change will have on your liv

For your reading pleasure - check out our spring issue!

For many silvicultural contractors, spring begins when enough snow has melted off the cut blocks and crews begin to put trees in the ground. It seems that time has come again and if planting trucks have yet to roll out across the country, they soon will.

Thanks to omnipresent technology, you can keep up with us as we publish our quarterly issues, so no excuses, get reading!


Our Spring 2013 issue is lined up with more great content thanks to our wonderful contributors. Some titles this time around include:

Spring 2013


This issue captures recent happenings from across the country and even across the globe. From the recent Earth Summit in Haiti where they committed to planting a Billion trees, to forestry in Taiwan, to private forest management  or migrating MPB here in Canada. Our regional reports and safety column will keep you updated on topics such as sleep debt in planters, agroforestry and Quebec's recently unveiled new forestry regime.


Read on and enjoy!

Winter 2013


Silvicu M A G A Z I N E ture
Planting for Pemba Winter 2013
Biochar and its potential for Canadian forestry
A glance back in time
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Silvicu M A G A Z I N E ture
Cover photo: Woman sorting seeds for planting
in a community nursery, 2009 Pemba Tanzania
Photo courtesy of CFI (Canadian Forests International).
Publisher Kate Menzies
Designer Krysta Furioso
Editor Dirk Brinkman
Associate Editor Erin Kendall
Silviculture Magazine
601 East Pender St., Vancouver, BC. V6A 1V6
Phone 778 882 9156 | Fax 604-628-0304
Email [email protected]
4 Biochar and its potential in
Canadian forestry
12 A glance back in time:
Poor decision making
21 The ultimate tree planting shovel
7 Focus on Safety
8 Readers’ Lens
9 Notes From the Field
16 WSCA Report
17 Ontario Report
18 International Forestry
Students’ Association
19 B.C. First Nations Forestry Council
22 Forest Health
4 Silviculture
Biochar and its potential in
Canadian forestry
By Sean Thomas
Throughout the boreal forest region and indeed much of Canada,
fire is the primary natural “disturbance agent” — the means by which
older forest stands are naturally replaced by younger stands. The
situation immediately after a fire can appear quite unpromising:
charred remains of canopy trees and loss of understory vegetation,
including regenerating trees. However, an observation familiar to
many foresters is that post-fire stands “green up” remarkably quickly.
A few years after a moderate-intensity fire, understory vegetation
is generally thick and future canopy trees are growing vigorously.
A number of processes contribute to post-fire regeneration and
rejuvenation. Many tree species show adaptations to survive fire
events (e.g., thick insulating bark, high belowground storage), or to
regenerate by seed following fire (e.g., the serotinous cones of Jack
Pine). In addition, nutrients previously stored in living parts of trees
have been released into the system, and soil temperature is increased
by a reduction in litter. However, something much less obvious also
contributes to post-fire forest rejuvenation: namely, a phenomenon
that has been termed the “charcoal effect”. In experiments in the
1990s in Scandinavia, additions of charcoal to soils were shown
to increase nitrogen uptake and growth of some trees, and result in
a proliferation of understory vegetation. Some fern species would
only establish where charcoal was present. An initial hypothesis
of the main mechanism responsible was the capacity of charcoal
to absorb growth-inhibiting phenolic compounds associated with
the leaf litter of certain understory species, in particular Ericaceous
shrubs (blueberries and their kin). Early research also showed
that charcoal strongly impacts a variety of soil processes, resulting
in increased litter decomposition rates, increased soil pH, and
increased availability of nitrogen and cations such as calcium and
In the last few years research interest on charcoal in soils has veritably
exploded. A major motivation stems from the long persistence of
charcoal in soils. Wood chips added to soil decompose within a few
years, and the half-life of larger logs is often only 20-25 years. In
contrast, 90%+ of charcoal remains present for at least 100 years,
and a large portion is likely to be present for 1000 years or more.
This longevity is of great interest in terms of carbon “sequestration”.
Charcoal is >95% carbon, and diversion of organic waste material
from agriculture and forestry into charcoal on a large scale could
in theory be an important mechanism to remove carbon from the
atmosphere and store it in a form that will remain put for a long
period of time. Unlike other proposed types of carbon “capture”,
addition of charcoal to soils has considerable potential to have
additional beneficial effects that have nothing to do with climate
change. The term that has emerged for charcoal intended for use
as a soil amendment is “biochar” (Fig. 1), with the “bio” referring
to its biological source. Biochar as a climate mitigation strategy
has recently been promoted by the likes of Al Gore, James Hansen,
and James Lovelock.
Biochar basics
Complete combustion of wood, as occurs under high oxygen
conditions, produces wood ash as an end product. Wood ash is
generally very alkaline (pH 9-13), and depleted in lighter elements
such as nitrogen. Although there are cases in which wood ash
has been used for agricultural liming, it is generally not beneficial
as a soil amendment to enhance tree growth. Pyrolysis is the
thermal decomposition of biomass under low oxygen conditions;
it is a chemical reaction that one would recognize as a kind of
smoldering fire. Although simple to initiate, pyrolysis is a complex
chemical process. The main chemical products of wood pyrolysis
include syngas (composed of hydrogen gas, carbon monoxide, and
a variety of gaseous carbon compounds, especially ethylene and
methane), pyrolysis oils (heavier organic molecules that are liquid
at room temperature), and charcoal. Wood vinegar, consisting of
recondensed water and water-soluble organic compounds including
acetic acid and acetone, may also be produced. Pyrolysis has been
around a long time as an industrial process: some types of “town
gas” produced during the gaslight era were essentially pyrolysisgenerated
The chemical and physical properties of biochar vary greatly
depending on pyrolysis conditions, such as peak temperature, and
also on the properties of the organic matter used as feedstock.
Biochar can be produced at temperatures of anywhere from 250-
900°C. Biochar produced at low temperatures (say <400°C) tends
to retain more carbon, and have a lower pH and porosity; higher
temperature biochars (say >550°C) retain less carbon and have
higher pH and porosity. Some types of feedstock present problems
for producing biochar useful as a soil amendment. Some animal
wastes (such as chicken manure), as well as urban compost sources
have quite high levels of salts (sodium chloride and others) that
remain present in charred material. Construction waste material
is typically mixed with metals and plastics, and can be expected to
produce chars that have unacceptable levels of toxic contaminants.
Contamination concerns are resulting in rapid efforts to develop
consistent labeling and quality assurance for trade purposes.
Biochar certification is likely to follow.
The properties of biochars that may result in a beneficial “charcoal
effect” remain a topic of considerable research interest. A number
matched to specific soil types and forest
What benefits are to be expected in terms
of increases in forest growth and yield?
At present nearly all published data are
from agricultural systems. A meta-analysis
(quantitatively compiling results from
numerous studies) published in 2011
found that on average biochar additions
resulted in a ~10% increase in crop yields
in agricultural trials (almost all conducted
in the tropics). However, if one considers
only trials in which soils were acidic and/
or coarse-textured, the gains in yield were
~20-30%. Also, there are other cases in
which larger growth enhancements have
been documented; moreover, growth
enhancement effects can continue for
many years after biochar has been added
to a soil.
Research trials on tree growth responses
in Canada have only been initiated in the
last year or so. Pot experiments examining
first year growth responses of a number of
Canadian tree species were completed in
my lab in October 2012 (Fig. 2). Results
are currently being analyzed for peerreviewed
publication, but it is clear that
results are not so clear cut: tree species
vary in responses, and both positive and
negative responses can occur. One
possible explanation for negative effects
is that early tree growth responses may
be strongly influenced by ethylene emitted
by biochars, but this remains speculative.
Understanding the mechanisms for effects
will clearly be critical to developing
biochars that maximize benefits and are
suited to specific tree species and soils.
Potential of biochar as a forest
There is considerable popular interest in
biochar as a soil amendment, and a range
of companies in the US and elsewhere are
marketing biochar for horticultural use. In
addition to its potential use for gardens
and houseplants, biochar has a number
of other important market niches. The
low weight of biochar makes it particularly
attractive for green roof and urban forestry
applications where minimizing soil mass is
important. The high capacity of biochar
to absorb a wide variety of chemicals also
has generated great interest in its use on
contaminated soils, including industrial
brownfields and on mine tailings. In an
agricultural context, biochar may be best
considered a substitute for lime: biochar
commonly has a liming potential much
greater than dolomitic limestone, and is
expected to continue to reduce soil acidity
over a much longer time. This specific
product substitution may also be important
in a forestry context: in Ontario the most
common forest soil amendment has been
lime added to acidified soils in sugar bush
operations. Biochar has an additional
potential advantage in that it can be
directly valued in terms of sequestered
of mechanisms are now thought likely
to contribute to beneficial effects on
plant growth. Biochar generally bears a
negative charge, and serves as a cation
exchange site in soils. In addition, biochar
commonly has a remarkably high surface
area, and physically sorbs a great variety of
substances, including negatively charged
plant nutrient forms such as phosphate and
nitrate. The high surface area of biochar
also enhances soil water holding capacity,
and its low density will generally reduce soil
bulk density and so enhance soil aeration
and root penetration. Some properties
of biochar may, however, have negative
effects on plants. Freshly produced biochar
may absorb mineral nutrients to such an
extent that they are unavailable to plants,
suggesting a need to “prime” biochar by
adding nutrients. In addition, recent work
has shown that many biochars outgas
significant quantities of ethylene, a potent
plant hormone with unpredictable and
species-specific effects on plant growth
and development.
Potential for biochar use as a forest
soil amendment
In many respects it is “natural” to consider
biochar as a soil amendment in the
context of Canadian forestry. Charcoal
is something that naturally occurs in to a
greater or lesser extent in essentially all
forest ecosystems in Canada. One can
therefore anticipate that native plants
and other organisms, in particular soil
microbes and fauna, will be able to cope
with some level of biochar in the soil.
Adding charcoal to logged stands may
better “emulate” natural disturbance.
From current understanding of biochar
effects on soil properties, positive effects
on forest productivity would be expected in
many systems. Moreover, there is a high
potential to create “designer” biochars
Fig. 1. A handful of biochar.
Photo by Nathan Basiliko.
6 Silviculture
Wood fiber is generally regarded as a
superior feedstock for biochar production.
Other feedstocks, in particular animal
wastes and some agricultural residues,
commonly result in biochars with less
desirable characteristics in terms of element
content and properties like porosity. Wood
fiber is also likely to be more uniform and
predictable as a feedstock source. Of
course there are many other potential
uses for wood fiber in, for example, wood
composite products; however, most such
applications still result in residues that
could be used as a biochar feedstock.
Charcoal production is an ancient
technology, and there are a variety of
commercial units available geared toward
production of charcoal for barbequetype
markets. Simple “retort” systems,
mainly designed for on-farm processing
of agricultural waste, can also be
obtained. However, efficient conversion
of sawmill waste, in particular sawdust
and bark, to biochar, will demand highcapacity
purpose-engineered machinery.
Engineering emphasis to date has generally
been on pyrolysis products other than
biochar, in particular pyrolysis oils, which
have important potential as industrial
chemical feedstocks. Integrated systems
that efficiently produce a set of products
remain an important engineering goal.
Biochar is very likely to emerge as an
important new aspect of the forest industry
in Canada in the years to come. An
obvious driver initially will be market
opportunities for sawmills and other
wood processing facilities to turn waste
materials into new products that have an
added economic value in terms of carbon
credits. Use of biochar as a forest soil
amendment is most likely for high-value
stands subject to soil acidification, in
which biochar may be a cost-effective
and more permanent substitute for lime.
Urban forest applications may also be
important, as may intensively managed
high-input systems, such as hybrid poplar.
The economics of biochar will also depend
strongly on the development of carbon
markets and regulatory frameworks to
encourage climate change mitigation.
Sean Thomas is Senior Research Chair, Forests and
Environmental Change in the Faculty of Forestry, University
of Toronto. Dr. Thomas’s research focuses on tree functional
biology and forest carbon processes, with current funded projects
examining biochar impacts on tree growth and soil processes.
Email: [email protected]
Fig. 2. Trees vary in their response to biochar additions. Comparison of growth responses to biochar of (A) red maple (Acer rubrum)
and (B) yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) (C = control; B = biochar addition treatment, consisting of sugar maple sawdust pyrolized
at a peak temperature of 525°C added at a rate of 5 t/ha. Photo by Tara Sackett.
Focus on Safety
and supervisors to take a hard look
at themselves and determine by what
examples they are setting and leading by.
Observe the next time you go onto the job
site what people are doing (and not doing),
look for those “little things”. For instance
personal protective equipment is an easy
one; if someone is not wearing their hard
hats, eye/ear protection, are they likely to
follow the lockout procedure that takes
15 minutes, or that detailed maintenance
program? Probably not.
The true test in this exercise is not just
observing what people are doing, but
how you handle it. Before you hand out a
reprimand, ask yourself one final question,
“what have I done as this persons’ superior
to encourage this behaviour”?
If you can be honest with yourself, you
will find a golden opportunity within your
personal accountability to become a true
business leader.
Barbara McFarlane is the Executive Director for the New
Brunswick Forest Safety Association. She holds a degree in
Forest Engineering from the University of New Brunswick, a
Certificate in Adult Education from St Francis Xavier University
and is a Certified Health and Safety Consultant.
By Barbara MacFarlane
Safety in Business
A word….safety.
Did you cringe? Did your mind go to your
latest order by a workplace safety officer?
Did you feel your bank balance shrink?
Did you think about training records?
Did you think about the law and how
darn confusing it is to know what you’re
supposed to do? Did you think about an
accident, a near miss?
Another word…business.
Did you think of safety at all?
On October 4th in Miramichi, New
Brunswick the 3rd annual national meeting
of forest safety associations took place.
Representatives were present from British
Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova
Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.
At such meetings, current trends and
common issues are discussed and tools
and solutions are shared. The most
interesting thing I’ve noticed year after
year is that no matter how different our
provincial industries may seem, we are
not that different after all. One common
and reoccurring issue that arose again this
year is how to engage industry leadership
in health and safety.
To many, the term ‘safety’ (unfortunately)
represents a cost (like an accident or a
training course) or something that is apart
from their daily activities (like a safety talk).
However, the reality is that safety needs
to be fully integrated into one’s overall
business. It should just be how things
get done - safely. In fact, I believe that
segregating safety and using terms like
‘safety leadership’ and ‘safety culture’
have only stifled what so many of us health
and safety professionals are trying to do,
which is to fully integrate safety to the point
where it happens unconsciously.
How do we get there? The biggest step
for any business owner is to recognize that
safety is part of their business; whether they
address it or not, it’s there. As Reynold Hert
of BCForestSafe said at our October 2012
meeting, “every company has a safety
program, whether or not it’s making or
costing them money is the question”. So
if you are a business owner, ask yourself
“does my safety program make or cost
me money”? And if you answer “I’m not
sure” or “I don’t know” than I’ll bet it is
costing you.
Recognizing that safety is part of your
business is one thing, recognizing how
to initiate change in your business to
improve on it is something else. As a
business owner/manager/supervisor
you have the capacity to make things
happen. As Stephen Covey said “I am
personally convinced that one person can
be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in
any situation, any organization. Such an
individual is yeast that can leaven an entire
loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience,
respect, persistence, courage, and faith to
be a transforming leader.”
A great leader is someone who champions
a message and rallies, follows not with
what they say but with their behaviour. A
great leader embodies a strong and clear
message such that their followers are
compelled to impress and emulate them
because they believe in them so deeply…
and not because of what they say but
because of what they do and what they
stand for. Remember the business mantra
that your lowest standard will become your
employees’ highest expectation.
In business and in safety it’s often said
that if people are not doing the little things
than they are not doing the big things.
So I challenge all owners, managers
8 Silviculture
We’d love to include
your photo in an
upcoming issue of
[email protected]
Photo by Scooter Clark
Photo by Jeremy Cameron
Reader’s Lens
A Tree Planting
By Stephanie Page
Widow-maker: nickname used to describe
a falling snag. Snag: a dead or dying tree.
East of the Rockies there is a stretch of
Albertan forest familiar to tree-planters. After
a brutal day of planting white spruce and
pine in an overgrown, thorn riddled, wasp
infested, three-year-old fly block somewhere
between the swamps of Swan Hills and the
sweet canola fields of High Prairie, we were
waiting there impatiently for the helicopter
to come.
The skies began to fill with dark, purple
clouds. The wind was violent; we could
hear branches snapping in the treeline.
The thunder was chaotic; we could see
lightening in the distance. The rain began to
fall; we spotted the helicopter flying towards
us. The pilot couldn’t maneuver the wind to
make the designated landing site, so he put
the chopper down on the other side of the
cut-block. We didn’t have much time. Time
is always on a tree-planter’s mind. If we
didn’t make the chopper we’d have to wait
out the storm on the open block. Or worse,
if the sun went down before the storm let up
we’d have to stay in the forest overnight with
nothing but our rain gear, wet cigarettes and
empty lunch bags. We ran to make time.
We ran down the muddy trail, over fallen
logs, through wispy grass and into a shallow
ravine towards the chopper. I didn’t feel
scared. I don’t think anyone did. It was
tree-planting business as usual. Thunder.
Lightening. Rain. Hail. Snow. Wind. Bears.
Bugs. Thorns. Nettle. Waiting. Hurrying.
Hiking. Sweating. Shivering. Flying. Falling.
Jumping. Tripping. Bleeding. Mending.
Giving up and getting up to plant again the
next day.
I heard a thunderous crack that didn’t belong
to the sky and my supervisor hollered,
“TREE!!”. I looked up from the edge of the
ravine and saw the thick, sixty-foot widowmaker
falling perfectly towards us. Then I
felt scared.
I couldn’t go left. I couldn’t go right. I
couldn’t go forward. I only had time to throw
myself backwards and brace for impact. The
widow-maker slapped the ground and sent
woody debris flying into the air. The last thing
I saw was my friend dive into the mud and
disappear beneath the trunk...
The Dogon, a Malian ethnic group, have
an interesting relationship with trees. They
believe the forest is alive and in flux, while
villages are stagnate and fixed. Rocks move.
Trees move. Animals know human intention.
The forest is home to spirits and these spirits
can attack. It is a force that gives and takes.
Trees give life, but can also bring death.
They prefer to trim branches than to fell
whole trees. Wood is used thoughtfully and
hardly ever wasted. The Dogon believe the
forest replenishes itself, so they exert very little
control over it and plant very few trees. Their
conception of the forest is directly related to
how they treat it and is in direct opposition
to how I conceived of it before that sixty-foot
widow-maker knocked some sense into me.
(Milton, 1996)
I can assure you that when a tree falls on
you in the forest, it makes a sound. It seems
louder than thunder. It seems faster than
lightening. Its presence seems so abundant
that its escape from your attention seems
impossible. How then, could a gigantic
falling tree have remained invisible to me
until I had placed myself in its trajectory?
I opened my eyes. I was covered with leaves
and twigs. The largest branches had just
missed me, but my friend was still buried
beneath the tree.
“Where is he?!”, someone yelled. I didn’t
know. I began to panic. Then some branches
Notes from the Field
moved and he pulled himself out from under
the trunk.
He stood up, patted down his body and
yelled, “I think I’m okay!” Except for a busted
ankle, he was.
We pulled ourselves together and made the
chopper. The pilot maneuvered the storm
with finesse, fought the turbulence and
returned us to camp safely. I didn’t feel safe
though. I felt lucky.
The only reason I can write about that
widow-maker as a cautionary tale of treeplanting
misadventures is because time lined
up perfectly, so that a potential disaster
turned out to be a near miss instead. What
if I had jumped forward? What if the trunk
had lined up a few degrees differently to my
friends body? What if my supervisor hadn’t
yelled out? What if we had just paid more
It’s interesting to think about how a treeplanter’s
perception of the forest influences
their safety. Many of us, in our familiarity with
the cut-block and its hazards, may forgot
to respect the power of this environment. I
failed to assess my surroundings thoroughly
that day and found myself rushing towards
a falling snag. I was focused on making the
chopper and became inattentive. If you’ve
been planting for awhile you’re skin is
probably thick and the forest may even feel
like a second home. Scaring away bears,
working in a volatile environment and
braving a bush camp for months changes
a person’s understanding of discomfort and
danger. When the forest is your second
home and when you feel like you have
control over your work environment, it
becomes easy to undermine hazards on
the cut-block. This season I’ll be thinking
about the forest a little differently. I’ll be
thinking about how some people perceive
the forest as all powerful and relate to it more
cautiously. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for
snags and thinking about how lucky we were
to have escaped that widow-maker.
Milton, Kay 1996. Environmentalism and Cultural Theory:
Exploring the role of anthropology in environmental discourse.
London: Routedge. Pp. 106-141
Stephanie page has been planting trees for five years and
currently works for Next Generation Reforestation in Western
Canada. In the off-season she lives in Montreal and studies
at McGill University and can be reached at [email protected]
10 Silviculture
Those of us who have worked in silviculture know it as an industry
that cultivates a unique and incredibly valuable combination of skills.
Consider the conditions; unpredictable forces of nature, physical,
emotional and mental fatigue and stress, community dynamics, logistics,
remote locations and the repetitive nature of the work. Those who thrive
in this environment may move up to management positions or develop
their own contracting companies. Others pursue new endeavours,
but all have developed a gamut of skills and experience increasingly
recognized as having incredible value.
The next article is the first in a series that looks at amazing people of
our ilk who showcase the true value of skills and experience developed
over years in reforestation work. We explore and celebrate their
remarkable capabilities and the diverse ways in which their experience
in reforestation ultimately contributed to new and interesting directions
in their lives and work.
Planting for Pemba
Tree planters empowering change in rural Africa
By Zach Melanson | Photos courtesy of CFI
Very few people have ever spent a season planting trees in the clear-cut
swamps, rock cap, and mountains of our vast Canadian landscape. If
they did, they would likely find it somewhat horrifying. After four planting
seasons, I have become accustomed to working in remote areas,
among tangles of broken sticks and swarms of blackflies. I earned good
money and likely injured my body beyond repair, but the thing that
kept me coming back was the people. In tree planting camps it’s cliché
to indulge this sentiment, but for most planters, it rings true. A friend
and fellow tree planter, Laura Neals describes this experience well,
“A tree planting camp operates like a community. You live together.
You eat together. You work together. It’s easy to connect with each
other because you all share this common experience. There’s a sense
when you’re tree planting that you’re all in it together.” I would argue
that it is exactly this sense of community that links tree planters across
Canada to communities half way around the world.
The story of our organization; Community Forests International, begins
in the Spring of 2007, while swapping travel stories around a camp
fire and ruminating on the potential for change in the world. A friend
and fellow tree planter, Jeff Schnurr , shared his experience of a recent
trip to a small, isolated African island called Pemba. Jeff had been
living on the island for 6 months before returning to Canada to plant
trees. While in Pemba, he made friends with Mbarouk Mussa Omar,
a community leader who was working for a small NGO working
to preserve endangered coastal regions and provide education on
sustainable fishing practices. Being that Pemba is a remote Island with
few tourists, Jeff the “tree farmer” had piqued their interest. Mbarouk,
along with a group of local fishermen and farmers approached Jeff
to help start a tree planting initiative on tracts of degraded land. Jeff
was keen to help in any way he could, and began writing proposals
and visiting communities, communicating with locals the possibility of
growing trees for fruit, fodder and home construction.
When Jeff returned to Canada to plant trees, he shared his experience
on the island with myself, and others. A small group of us decided
to help, making a pact to dedicate two years of our lives to support
Pembans in their efforts.
Notes from the Field
Woman planting a mango tree near Tundaua, Pemba 2008
Mbarouk speaking to villagers on the islet of Kokota about the successes other
communities have had planting trees on the main Island of Pemba. 2012
Pembans had been subsistence farming and fishing since before
recorded history and pressure on their resources increased in step
with population growth. Today, trees could be planted to stabilize
coastlines, to improve soil quality, and provide cover on this intensely
hot tropical island. Furthermore, the islanders were importing many
staples from the mainland like mango, papaya, and wood poles for
home construction, which could be easily grown on the island. What
was missing was the initial investment in infrastructure and technical
assistance to get communities growing trees.
Our goal was simple enough, start small by helping a handful of
villages on the island of Pemba grow trees on community-owned land
for economic and environmental benefit. We accomplished this by
building low-cost nurseries in seven communities, and hiring Mbarouk
and a few local experts to visit villages and provide support.
In Canada, news of Pemba spread quickly through the camp, and
soon we had organized a fundraiser to help Pemban communities
build nurseries and grow their own seedlings. We picked a day where
planters could donate a portion of their earnings, in the form of trees,
to support the project. We called it “Plant for Pemba” The premise
being that for every tree planted in donation, several more would
spring up on the island. Laura Neals remembers one fundraising day
in particular, “It was my first year crew bossing and we had the most
miserable weather. It was a torrential downpour of near-freezing rain.
By four o’clock no one could feel their hands, but our day was far from
over. Most of the camp planted until eight-thirty that night. It was awful,
but no one complained. On that day, everyone got tough. It didn’t
matter how cold it was. It didn’t matter how late it was. Everyone felt
like they were a part of something special.” Laura donated over 4000
trees that day, the equivalent of about $380 dollars; all the money she
had earned. The camp followed her lead and we raised over $6000.
With the help of Brinkman & Associates Reforestation, Laura, and
hundreds of other planters, CFI has grown its presence on the island,
working alongside thousands of people in 14 communities. To date,
Pemban’s have planted 35 species of trees and over 700,000 seedlings
in total. Communities engaged in these initiatives collect seed from
local sources, pack the seedling containers, nurture, grow and then
plant the seedlings. What makes this project stand apart is its approach;
each community has full ownership and control of their nurseries and
the trees they plant. They decide what trees to grow and for what
purpose. CFI understands that Pemban’s are the experts, and no one
is better equipped to innovate long-term solutions than those within
the community. By Planting for Pemba, Pemban silvicultural experts
are employed and necessary funds are raised to get the projects off the
ground, helping create a collaborative partnership that works toward
positive social, economic and environmental change on the island.
Canadian tree planters and the people of Pemba have shown us that
collectively, we have the skills, resources and knowledge to care for
the environment and the people who live within it.
If you are a crew boss or supervisor who would like help organizing
a Plant for Pemba day, contact Zach Melanson at [email protected]
forestsinternational.org. Also please consider donating to Community
Forests International’s Pemban projects. For more information please
visit CFI at www.forestsintrnational.org and on Facebook, by searching
community forests international.
One of 14 low-cost nursery that Brinkma & Associates, and their planters have helped
establish on the Island. Pemba, Tanzania 2012
Jeff listens as Mbarouk, Executive Director of Community Forests Pemba (CFP) speaks
to community members about the tree planting project.
Community members inspect their recent plantings of mangroves near Wete, Pemba.
Mangroves are planted to help prevent erosion in inter-tidal zones and create rich
habitat for many fish species. 2010
12 Silviculture
A glance back in time:
Poor decision making
Words & Photos by Raymond M. Keogh
Clonal Teak, a revolution in teak cultivation.
The year 2012 marks my official retirement date. Normally
retirement is a time to highlight one’s outstanding achievements and
contributions. Unfortunately, as I glance back I see more shipwrecks
than completed voyages. It is difficult to admit this; but my career
was almost a total failure. If I seek excuses, I have few. I must place
the blame on a lot of poor decision-making on my part.
The first poor decision was my choice of career. I could not have
become a forester - and especially a tropical forester - at a more
inopportune time in history. Throughout the period 1972-2012
deforestation in the tropics was running at historically high rates,
reaching on average, 13 million ha/annum in recent years.
The second inadequate decision was to concentrate on teak.
The species has been in decline over the last four decades.
Although 30 million ha were under teak forests in the early 1990s,
resource depletion had gone beyond the point of sustainable
commercialisation by then. Logging bans had to be applied in
Thailand in 1983; India in 1987 and Laos in 1989. Even in
Myanmar, where commercial management has continued to the
present day, the extension of teak forests has been reducing;
the quality declining and the yield dropping. This reflects poor
management. Little wonder, then, that the country is set to ban
exports of the species by 2014.
The third ill advised decision I made was to become involved in
development, yet maintain an emphasis on commercial aspects of
forestry. The focus in the early 1970s was changing from industrial
activities towards community, social or agro-forestry; that is: forestry
for the people. As commercial activities and wood production began
to be marginalised and, as donor funding shifted in line with these
trends, teak as a species for development was sidelined. Counter to
the norm, I continued to develop models for growth and yield in teak.
Lopsided development
In the wake of the change of emphasis from commercial to social
endeavours in forestry, a major problem has become apparent.
Demand for commercial high-grade tropical hardwoods, running at
around 90 million m³per year, depends largely on deforestation and
degradation of natural forests. The unsustainable nature of the supply
situation is known as the tropical hardwood crisis. I do not suggest
that social dimensions should have been ignored; the mistake was to
have created an imbalance. If any aspect of forestry is ignored, the
consequences will be detrimental to the sector as a whole.
During the 1980s, development agencies did make a concerted
attempt to combat tropical deforestation which became a highly
publicised global concern. The Tropical Forestry Action Programme
(TFAP) was an effort to get to grips with a problem that had reached
alarming levels. However, some NGOs, claiming to represent the
environmental movement, accused TFAP of irresponsibility because
it considered logging natural forests. TFAP protested that its aim
Inspection of teak, Brazil.
14 Silviculture
was to shift dependency
of tropical timber supply
from unsustainable to
sustainable practices. As
a result of the disaccord,
donor governments were
confused about which
policy to follow; they
did not support TFAP
adequately and the
initiative sank.
It has become clear that
an inordinately large
area of the natural
forests, running to tens
of millions of hectares
would be required to
sat i s f y sus tainable
commercial demand
for tropical hardwoods.
Most of this area is totally
inaccessible. Therefore,
dependency on natural
ecosystems alone for the
supply of these timbers is
not feasible.
The lack of complementary commercial high-grade hardwood
plantations to take the pressure off natural forests must be addressed.
But, some influential entities question any organisation that considers
developing industrial plantations, especially monocultures, to solve
the crisis. Monocultures are deemed to be a bad thing among
these groups. As a result the donor community has been reluctant
to appear to be supporting commercial plantations.
Without a concerted effort to manage natural forests in a sustainable
manner on the scale required, and without creating backup
commercial plantations, where is the supply to come from? The only
logical answer is that - in the absence of a comprehensive workable
programme - supply will continue to come from deforestation and
degradation until it runs out. Then the world will have to accept that
tropical hardwoods are a thing of the past.
It can be seen that tropical forestry, under the influence of
development agencies and NGOs over the last four decades, has
tended to focus on a select range of priorities. Unfortunately, these
priorities did not embrace the comprehensive needs of forestry. The
creation of tropical hardwood supply sources on the scale required to
satisfy the growing market demand was neglected. Towards the end
of the 1980s the real significance of lopsided policies became clear.
Unscrupulous elements could see clearly that predicted shortages of
tropical hardwoods pointed to very promising returns. They discovered
that teak is a unique hardwood and, unlike many other species in its
category, can be grown in plantations. Its silviculture is well understood
and it is a relatively rapid volume producer given the right conditions.
They presented logical and seemingly watertight cases to attract
investments on a large scale to new plantation schemes. Unfortunately,
their main objective was to make money quickly.
A number of new companies
generated exaggerated forecasts
of growth for the species and
combined these predictions with
prices that were only applicable
to the best-quality forest teak. The
combination of inflated growth
rates and prices produce exciting
predictions about returns for
investors who had little technical
or financial knowledge about the
species. It was regrettable that
the development agencies and
NGOs, which had neglected
the hardwood sector had, by the
late 1980s, lost their authority to
provide a professional opinion
to counter the deceit and in the
vacuum a rash of questionable
retail schemes mushroomed
around the world.
Failure to regain balance
I set up TEAK 2000 (currently
TEAK 21) in 1996 to combat
the hardwood crisis and redress
the imbalance. The organisation
recognised the many barriers to success, including the need to:
• Obtain a sustained output of hardwoods from managed forests
combined with new plantations on a large scale;
• Attract the high levels of long-term finance required through
innovative methods (e.g. through insurance and pension funds;
forest bonds and many other instruments);
• Incorporate a wide spectrum of growers into the endeavour,
particularly communities working with the private sector;
• Overcome technical barriers, including the lack of:
- Superior genetic material for plantations;
- Flexibility in silviculture to suit different categories of growers;
- Wide application of best-practice management techniques;
- Optimal use of good quality land for hardwoods - without
depressing food supply;
- Production of certified high-quality end products;
• Change attitudes, particularly amongst donors, governments
and NGOs in an era of environmental and social forestry in
which timber production on an industrial scale was regarded
with some suspicion.
The Consortium Support System (CSS) was the proposed mechanism
through which TEAK 21 would develop a sustained supply-base of
hardwoods for the marketplace in the long term. The components of
the CSS include services (overall coordination, investment facilities,
technology transfer, tree improvement and quality control) and
Inspection of teak, Brazil.
Indonesia Old Teak; a sight
that is increasingly rare as
time passes and quality teak
disappears – high quality teak
of old age
support entities (governments, international
donor agencies and NGOs).
Unfortunately, TEAK 21 failed to make
headway and is to be closed down. I
cannot exonerate myself from this failure
and readily admit - in hindsight - that I did
myself no favours by persisting to persuade
development organisations, despite their
clear reluctance to engage. This was the
fourth ill advised decision of my career.
I feel strongly that the aid agencies and
many NGOs have been prevented from
embracing the CSS because of a groupthink
mentality that is uncomfortable with
timber production on a large scale, and
particularly with the involvement of the
private sector despite their potential in the
development field. Whatever the reasons
for past failures, the tropical hardwood
crisis has not abated and the TEAK 21
proposals are every bit as valid today and
more urgent than they were in 1996.
Looking back
I now look back and contemplate my
career. After writing and speaking many
hundreds of thousands of words in defence
of tropical forestry and teak, I ponder on
this expenditure of time and effort; my
words have not changed the situation for
the better. I also ponder on what I should
have done with my life. The wisdom of
Jonathan Swift springs to mind. I use
his wisdom to illustrate an answer to
my question, though I take the liberty to
change some words (in italics) to suit the
“That few campaigners, with all their
schemes, are half so useful ... as an honest
forester; who, by skilful draining, fencing,
manuring, and planting, hath increased
the intrinsic value of a piece of land; and
thereby done a perpetual service to his
The future of teak in Latin America (mechanical
harvesting in Brazil).
16 Silviculture
By John Betts, WSCA Executive Director
Western Canada
WSCA 2013 annual conference to
fathom forest restoration
Forest restoration is a term likely to get
more use here in B.C. as we head into
the uncertainties of life after the mountain
pine beetle plague. It makes sense, given
that whatever tactical opportunities we
had to mitigate the extent of the attack are
mostly over. We are now in what we might
call a post-mountain pine beetle phase of
forestry. It would seem provident then to
think about putting things back in order.
Of course it’s not that simple. The term
itself is problematic. To restore means to
return to some previous state. Not only is
that a doubtful possibility, there is good
reason to not want to put things back where
they were on the landscape previous to the
plague. After all, some of those conditions
contributed to the present catastrophe.
Nevertheless, if we are going to use the
word ‘restore’ the question becomes,
‘Restore to what’?
We need to look at the assumption that
is driving the idea of restoring our forests;
the beetles may have eaten themselves out
of house and home. But does the collapse
loose on the landscape; our success in
managing that was minimal. Nevertheless,
any forest restoration strategy needs to
imagine a future landscape that is at least
more resistant to the kinds of catastrophic
disturbance we have just been through.
And, although it is far from ideal, any forest
restoration strategy will likely have to use
the resources we have available today,
which are minimal.
How we attempt to manage our provincial
forests has always been dependent on
public policy. At this point it is critical to see
what vantage point our political and public
planners occupy on forest restoration by
asking them what they think restoring our
forests means in policy and practice. We
intend to do that at the WSCA conference
in February 2013 in a panel which
includes leading politicians on forestry
and members of the senior echelons of
the ministry responsible for forestry. From
that discussion we should be able to infer
the scale and depth of the thinking today
on what might be meant by the concept of
restoring forests for the future.
of their population signal the all clear
when it comes to future disturbances and
consequences of the plague? We already
know the answer to that. It doesn’t. The
plague has created opportunities for fire,
floods, and other bugs and blight that
we are just beginning to contend with.
Ecologically speaking, things are far from
over. And this is to say nothing about the
social and economic effects.
There is another dimension to this as well.
What if the beetle plague is actually a
deeper, less obvious problem announcing
itself? The remarkable damage we’ve seen
may really be an effect, not a cause. If that
is the case then, that cause may not be
gone and will seek other ways to express
itself on the landscape. If we are planning
on restoring our forests, it will do us little
good in the long run to be fixing the wrong
Which brings us back to just what state
we want to restore our forests to. There
is a whiff of hubris here, of course, in the
assumption that this is something we could
actually do. The beetle plague is a stunning
example of the kinds of forces that can let
By Allison Hands
Ontario Forestry Association Will Explore
‘Our Working Forest’ for 64th Annual Conference
The Ontario Forestry Association (OFA) will be hosting its 64th
Annual Conference on February 8th in Alliston, Ontario. ‘Our
Working Forest’, the 2013 theme, will focus on the importance of the
forest industry, the contributions that forestry makes to our economy
and culture, and the opportunities that forests present to Ontarians.
The OFA hopes to restore the image of the industry using our
annual conference as an opportunity to engage landowners, forestry
professionals, students and the general public. Our Working Forest
will bring together experts from industry, academia, government, and
more to discuss the state of forest products today, what to expect in
the future, and what this means to all of us.
“Ontario’s forests can work for all of us, providing important
economic, ecological, and recreational opportunities,” said
Margaret Casey, OFA director and conference chair. “The message
we are trying to get through is that whether you are a practitioner,
woodlot owner, or any other interested individual, there are benefits
to managing your forests, both on a landowner and provincial scale.
While there may be differences between these two scales, there are
many similarities as well.”
Casey admits that the theme is slightly different than previous
years. “There is a greater focus on the forest industry and finding
what a working forest means to landowners in Ontario. Previous
conferences have been more about science and research, including
talks on the emerald ash borer two years ago.” This year, OFA is
planning a pre-conference session for municipal forest managers
on EAB in partnership with York Region on February 7th as a way
of addressing this critical issue. This will allow the OFA to focus the
conference on providing new information to the public and creating
a greater connection and awareness of the forest industry in Ontario.
The conference will open with a plenary session that will address
‘What is the Working Forest?’, and highlight the successes of a
working forest in Ontario. Peter Schleifenbaum, owner of Haliburton
Forest and Wild Life Reserve, will speak of his property and how
he utilizes his forest land. “It will bring a unique perspective to the
audience and get everyone on a good thinking path first thing.”
Two streams will run concurrently throughout the day, one focusing
on Ontario’s Forests and the other a Landowner’s Toolbox. The
Ontario’s Forests stream will cover topics such as forest ecology,
Algonquin Park as a working forest, and even the successes of
local wood products, with the goal of highlighting the value and
importance of our provincial working forests.
The Landowner’s Toolbox stream will focus on helping woodlot
owners get the most out of their forests and include talks from
those working directly in the forest such as loggers and forest
consultants, giving the audience a more in-depth view of how they
work. “The sessions will provide woodlot owners with information
and encouragement on using professionals and the critical questions
they should be asking them,” Casey said.
“I really see this event as getting people to think in a positive
way about the forest and its role, but also being practical for the
landowners and getting them to look at the future,” Casey said of
the conference.
Previous years have enjoyed near capacity numbers with over
300 people, and Casey expects the same turn out again this year.
Registration is limited so those interested are encouraged to register
The conference theme will be a leading force for the OFA in the
coming year, with the goal of increasing the public’s awareness of
forestry in Ontario including forest ecology, careers and sustainable
management of our resources. Successful programs such as Focus
on Forests and Forester in the Classroom aim to reach teachers
and students in engaging curriculum linked resources. For more
information about the OFA, visit www.oforest.ca
Ontario Report
18 Silviculture
An introduction
The International Forestry Students Association (IFSA) is an incredibly
diverse organization that unites students of forestry/forestry-related
sciences from every corner of the globe. IFSA’s vision is for global
cooperation among students of forest sciences in order to broaden
knowledge and understanding to achieve a sustainable future for
our forests, and to provide a voice for youth in international forest
policy processes.
IFSA’s mission is to provide a platform for students of forest sciences
to enrich their formal education, promote cultural understanding by
encouraging collaboration with international partner organisations
and to gain practical experiences with a wider and more global
perspective. Through its network, IFSA encourages student meetings,
enables participation in scientific debates, and supports the
involvement of youth in decision making processes and international
forest and environmental policy.
By Katie Gibson
International Forestry Students’ Association
IFSA also maintains excellent partnerships with international forest
related organizations which include the International Union of
Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO), the European Forestry
Institute (EFI), the Commonwealth Forestry Association (CFA), the
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Informal Forum
of International Student Organizations (IFISO), the Centre for
International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and the International
Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). It works with these
organizations to offer students opportunities to get involved in the
professional world of forestry. These organisations are also provided
with access to the largest collective potential workforce/ thinking
body of forestry students.
IFSA is open to forestry students from all academic levels and offers
a wide array of opportunities and activities. It coordinates social,
professional and educational meetings amongst its members,
arranges internship prospects, provides professional training, and
allows students to get involved in international processes.
It is strictly a student-run association; all activities and meetings are
solely organized and managed by students. In this sense students
who take on official positions within the IFSA gain a stupendous
amount of experience in being involved with such a professional,
multinational organization.
IFSA organizes an annual symposium for its members which takes
place in a different country each year. Students come from all over
the world to take part in the memorable two week event in which
they get a forestry-focused tour around the country. The most recent
symposium occurred in Turkey; it will be in British Columbia, Canada
in the begininning of August, 2014.
Katie Gibson is Vice President of the IFSA and can be reached at [email protected].
First Nations Forestry Council supports communities and
silviculture through business and training
The First Nations Forestry Council (FNFC) understands the
importance of silviculture and is excited to be involved in supporting
communities through the creation of, or participation in, programs
that support the best management of our lands and resources.
FNFC is in its seventh year of operation as a non-profit society
supporting all First Nations in their forestry activities. We promote
First Nations business opportunities in forestry, and collaborate
with government on forestry programs and issues such as tenure,
Forests for Tomorrow program and policy development. The FNFC is
known to design programs and policies that align with First Nations
and government goals, provide forestry information to First Nations
communities, and works to address First Nations forestry priorities.
Current priorities include business development in forestry,
health and safety around the MPB infestation and resulting fuel
management and, always important to First Nations-health of the
lands and resources. Our programs have included understanding
the role First Nations are playing in the sector, supporting continued
fuel management reduction around communities and interest in
being part of the forest sector at both the operations economic
development level and at the more senior policy and governance
FNFC is currently implementing a training program designed to
produce skilled workers and independent contractors that can
By Keith Atkinson, RPF
B.C. First Nations Forestry Council
participate in the forest sector. The First Nations Forestry Training
Partnership pilot is a Training Partnership program that we have
launched this year, with the support of the Province of BC. The
program is designed to train aboriginal people for jobs in the forestry
sector, assisting with linking employers with these students and
bridging the tremendous labour gap that the forest sector predicts
for the coming decade.
Students entering the program will be applying for forest sector
related training and they will align themselves with a forest industry
sponsor. There are multiple streams for training as the goal is as
much recruitment of forest sector workers as it is in the training.
Industry sponsors are supporting the individual with their academic
goals and are providing a work term placement.
This type of partnership program is designed to recruit students, to
provide solutions for the forest sector labour shortage, to bridge gaps
in education and skilled labour, and to build relationships between
forest sector business and First Nations communities.
The FNFC is committed to assisting First Nations communities and
youth interested in forestry in moving forward and contributing to the
best management of our forests – we feel there is a current need for
increased silviculture and restoration activities on the land and we
hope to assist with the relationships and partnerships that are needed
to encourage a collaborative approach to addressing this need.
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Silvicu M A G A Z I N E ture
20 Silviculture
By Vicki Gauthier
Saskatchewan Report
Jack Pine and June Bugs – A Deadly
Combination in Saskatchewan!
Jack pine (Pinus banksiana) is an important
tree species to Saskatchewan. Of
Saskatchewan’s commercial tree species,
jack pine makes up approximately 17 per
cent of the provincial forest types (PFT) in
the commercial forest and over 38 per cent
of the PFTs in an area called the Island
Forests. The Island Forests in Saskatchewan
are located within a transition area between
boreal forest to the north and grasslands to
the south (the Boreal Plains ecozone). This
region marks both the southern advance
of the boreal forest and the northern limit
of arable agriculture (Acton, Padbury
and Stushoff 1998). The area of interest
is described as a sandy loam site that is
prone to drought and was heavily infected
with Lodgepole pine dwarf mistletoe
(Arceuthobuium americanium) and was
also disturbed by wildfire in 1995. The
Lodgepole pine dwarf mistletoe has the
most significant impact on the Island Forests
with more than 13 per cent (26,453 ha) of
jack pine infected with this parasite.
However, another pest of interest to the
Island Forests was discovered in the fall
of 2011: the June bug! Appropriately, this
story of jack pine and June bugs begins in
June of 2011. An area of land that was
not sufficiently restocked (NSR) in the Island
Forests was fill-planted using jack pine
412 (1+0) container stock planted at 2 m
spacing. By the fall of 2011, dead seedlings
had been discovered in this plantation
during a routine walk through. When the
seedlings were dug up to determine cause
of death, it was very strange to see that
the entire plug (4 cm across and 12 cm
long), the radicle and all lateral roots were
stripped from the seedlings (see Figure 1).
As we do with all things related to dead and
dying trees here in Saskatchewan, the dead
seedlings were brought to our provincial
forest entomologist and pathologist, Dr.
Rory McIntosh. He diagnosed the damage
to be consistent with the work of June
beetles: the pesky Phyllophaga spp. (Figure
2)! Dr. McIntosh provided the following life
cycle description.
The common life cycle of the destructive
and abundant Phyllophaga spp. extends
over three years. While these white grubs
Acton, D.F., G.A. Padbury, C.T. Stushoff. March, 1998.
The Ecoregions of Saskatchewan. Prepared and edited by
Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management.
Canadian Plains Research Centre/Saskatchewan Environment
and Resource Management. University of Regina. 205 pgs.
Vicki Gauthier is a professional forester with the Saskatchewan
Ministry of Environment.
normally feed on grass roots, they will eat
the roots of tree seedlings, especially when
grass roots are scarce, as was the case in
the Island Forests. In May or June the adult
beetles will emerge from the soil and feed
on broad-leaved hardwoods. The adults
mate in the evening (how romantic) and at
dawn the females return to the ground to
deposit 15 to 20 eggs, one to eight inches
deep in the soil. Eggs hatch about three
weeks later into the young larvae that feed
upon the roots and decaying vegetation
throughout the summer. In the fall, they
migrate downward in the soil, to a depth
of up to one and a half metres, and remain
inactive until the following spring. The
spring can see the most damage as the
larvae return near the soil surface to feed on
plant roots. Seedling plugs that are J-rooted
because of careless planting are often killed
first. In the autumn, the larvae again migrate
deep into the soil to overwinter, returning
to just below the soil surface for the third
spring to feed on plant roots until they
are fully grown by late spring. The grubs
then form oval earthen cells and pupation
begins! The adult emerges from the earthen
cell a few weeks later, but doesn’t leave the
ground just yet. The beetles overwinter and
emerge the following year in May or June,
when the next round of feeding, mating and
egg-laying takes place.
You can see how by the fall of 2011 the
larvae had already eaten the roots from
the jack pine plugs in the Island Forests and
left evidence in the red, dead seedlings.
It is estimated that up to 250 hectares
of plantation have been damaged, or
approximately 270,000 seedlings. The cost
of re-treating these sites could be as much
as $300,000. The June bug is native to
Saskatchewan and generally has a threeyear
cycle. We estimate that 2011 was year
two of the cycle. The grubs we found this
past spring indicate that 2012 is year three
and, hopefully, the end of the cycle. We’ve
got our fingers crossed that replanting these
sites in the spring of 2013 will avoid major
root damage and allow the seedlings to get
bigger and be better able to withstand any
further June beetle attack.
Figure 3: Dead Jack pine with damaged radicle.
Photo by Rory McIntosh. Ministry of Environment
Figure 1: Dead jack pine with june bug.
Photo by Christine Simpson. Ministry of Environment
Figure 2: June bug.
Photo by Christine Simpson. Ministry of Environment
The ultimate tree
planting shovel
By Ting von Bezold
Every planter spends countless hours
daydreaming ways to improve the activity
of planting trees. During one such session I
contemplated how to improve my planting
shovel and recalled meeting a knife maker
on Salt Spring Island, Seth Burton. I was
imagining modifying my existing stock shovel
with a handle made of Damascus steel. One
of the many downfalls of today’s modern
planting shovel is that the handles are prone
to failure. Damascus is an ancient form of
steel characterized by distinctive patterns
of banding and mottling, reminiscent of
flowing water. Items made of Damascus are
reputed to be not only tough and resistant
to shattering, but capable of being honed
to a sharp and resilient edge, ideal for knife
making. It was just a few years prior that I
had met Seth and was introduced to his
exquisite hand forged knives made from
Damascus. I bought one as a gift for my
tree planting boss.
I soon visited Seth on Salt spring Island
and sowed the idea of modifying my shovel
into the ultimate planting machine. To my
delight, Seth was interested. A shovel is, after
all, a type of blade and the idea of making a
blade that cut through tough terrain to plant
trees motivated him. We decided to work on
this project together.
Like a true piece of art the design didn’t
occur overnight. Over several months the
design emerged with a blade of Damascus
steel rather than the handle. As we worked,
there was an unspoken understanding
between us that we were going for the
absolute best shovel possible. In the end the
only thing we used from the original shovel
was the general size and weight. The final
construction is what we consider to be the
best tree planting shovel made to date. In
fact it is probably the most beautiful and
functional shovel ever made.
The blade and ferrule was constructed
out of five types of the highest quality
stainless steels, forged and folded over
a core of powdered tool steel. The result
of this process was a single billet of metal
consisting of over 200 layers. Having not
made a shovel blade before, Seth drew on
his considerable metal smith experience
to find the combination of inert hardening
and tempering that would produce a shovel
blade that was both tough enough to
endure repetitive striking against rock and
which had high edge retention (capacity to
remain sharp). After mastering the blade
we moved onto designing the handle,
shaft and fittings. For the shaft, we chose
a wood, Cocobolo, known for its strength
and weather resistance. Cocobolo has been
used for centuries in knife and gun handle
construction. The shaft was press fit, epoxied
and pinned with a mosaic pin into the
ferrule. The D-handle was constructed with a
white oak core and reinforced with stainless
steel. A mortis and tenon and stainless steel
bolt fastened it to the shaft. The final touch
was to wrap the D handle in multiple layers
of carbon fibre. The last stage of the shovel
construction was the grip which we formed
out of stacked leather with a half inch square
stainless tang and bolster.
Two hundred and fifty thousand trees later,
the shovel still looks brand new and is valued
at over $6000. Most standard shovels would
struggle to last a single season of planting
and certainly would not be considered a
valuable piece of art. This shovel will last
forever. Eager to try the shovel, a fellow
planter Wahabu Ahmed, renowned for his
19 year tree planting career, borrowed the
shovel for a month and attests:
“I got the opportunity to try this shovel at the
later part of this planting season and I can
say it is the best shovel I have used in my
nineteen years of planting. The shovel feels
solid and the blade has the best approach
angle, which makes it easier to drive through
challenging land such as thick grass.”
Feats and achievements aside, I humbly
suggest the best thing this shovel has done
is cultivate a friendship that is destined to
grow along with all the trees this shovel has
planted. Thank you, Seth Cosmo Burton.
22 Silviculture
Forest Health
be identified for reserve selection and
cone collection. Stocking standards can
incorporate whitebark pine as a preferred
or acceptable species if accompanied
by a professional rationale in support
of objectives for wildlife or biodiversity.
Whitebark pine stands, especially those
with many cone-bearing trees and in good
health, are good candidates for wildlife
tree reserves, Old Growth Management
Areas, and Wildlife Habitat Areas for
grizzly bears.
In areas planned for harvest, it is now
important to prioritize conserving and
identifying trees which appear to lack
blister rust cankers. These trees may be
rare disease-resistant genotypes, thus
providing a life-link to the species’ future in
the area since resistance to blister rust can
be passed down from the parent trees to
their seedlings. Currently, every state and
province that administers whitebark pine
is identifying, testing, and propagating
disease-resistant progeny capable of
surviving blister rust. Thinning can benefit
whitebark pine by targeting and removing
competing tree species. Opening up
canopies often improves reproduction of
whitebark pine by attracting seed-caching
Clark’s nutcrackers and providing better
light conditions for pine seedling growth.
These seed caches are the primary way
that whitebark pine regenerates. As an
example, in the East Kootenay Region,
BC Timber Sales (BCTS) has adapted the
following guidelines.
• Stands with less than 50% mature
composition of whitebark pine. Cankerfree
trees should be clearly identified and
retained throughout the harvest area,
especially trees that have robust crowns
capable of producing many cones.
Proceed with care to avoid damaging these
By Michael P. Murray and Jodie Krakowski
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), wellknown
for its value to western North
American high-mountain wildlife,
commonly thrives in harvested forests. As
the producer of the largest tree seeds in the
spruce-fir zone, whitebark pine supports
more than two dozen species of foraging
mammals and birds, including grizzly
bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) and Clark’s
nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana). The
tree maintains waterflows into the dry
summers by shading late-lying snow. At
the highest elevations, their wind and ice
battered frames contribute to spectacular
timberline scenery.
An introduced fungal pathogen (Cronartium
ribicola) known as white pine blister rust is
decimating whitebark pine throughout
most of its range. This canker disease has
a complex lifecycle, but in general, the
younger or smaller a tree is, the quicker it
dies. Larger trees may survive for decades,
however stem cankers will often kill crown
tops. This is where most of the valuable
cone-producing branches are. Whitebark
pine grows so slowly, trees often need
to reach ages of 50 to 80 before they
produce cones.
In southeast British Columbia and
southwest Alberta, most whitebark pine
are dead or dying from blister rust. The
mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus
ponderosae) epidemic has accelerated
the decline, causing great concern since
the beetle prefers mature trees which
produce the most cones. Many whitebark
pine populations are further stressed by
increasingly crowded stand conditions. This
is a reflection of mandated fire exclusion.
By eliminating natural fires, less fire-hardy
competitors such as Engelmann spruce
(Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir
(Abies lasiocarpa) have prospered to the
detriment of whitebark pine, which is not
a strong competitor.
Recognizing the mounting pressures on
whitebark pine and dependent wildlife,
the Canadian government classified it as
endangered in June 2012. It is the first tree
in the West to receive this declaration. As
of this writing, restoration planning is in
the earliest stages and there are no rangewide
government restrictions on whitebark
pine harvest or use. However, some forest
licensees have already incorporated
tree retention guidelines in their formal
plans (e.g. Spray Lakes Sawmill, AB and
Canfor’s operations near Cranbrook,
BC). While the government of Alberta is
nearing completion of its own recovery
plan for crown lands, individual forest
plans (e.g. C5 and R11) have articulated
whitebark pine retention guidelines. The
BC Forest Service has issued an informal
bulletin providing general information and
recommendations for avoiding harvest
W h i t e b a r k p i n e o f t e n a c h i e v e s
merchantable form in forests of mixed
species. From 2000-2009, harvested
volume in BC’s Southern Interior Region
was at least 21,388 cubic metres (based on
scaling records). Forest practitioners can
creatively maintain and promote whitebark
pine within managed stands, thus averting
complete loss throughout its range. Studies
indicate that with active management, it’s
possible to significantly improve whitebark
pine habitat.
Forest professionals can provide clear,
measurable and verifiable direction and
silvicultural support for whitebark pine
through Forest Stewardship Plans (FSPs)
and landscape level planning. Species
at risk, including whitebark pine, may be
addressed through stand-level biodiversity
measures and wildlife as FRPA (Forest
and Range Practices Act) values in an
FSP, where high-value individuals may
Silvicultural Options for the Endangered Whitebark Pine
• Stands with more than 50% mature composition of whitebark
pine. Exclude stands from harvest through group tree retention such
as removing these timber types from the harvest area, designating
[can be internal too] wildlife tree retention area (WTRA) to meet
forest stewardship plan (FSP) retention targets or through establishing
internal wildlife tree reserves.
Post-harvest activities such as burning and thinning can also be
designed to avoid damage to whitebark pine. By implementing the
above-mentioned options, forest professionals fulfill an important
role in sustaining this remarkable tree.
Michael P. Murray, Ph.D. is a Regional Forest Pathologist, BC Forest Service, Nelson, BC. He is currently
screening whitebark pine for disease resistance, examining root disease with tree ring methods,
and investigating paper birch decline. He serves on the Board of the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation
(www.whitebarkfound.org and www.whitebarkpine.ca). Michael can be reached at [email protected]
After working as a research scientist and consultant for 15 years around the Pacific Northwest, Jodie
is currently working in the operational side at the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource
Operations in Squamish. She has been studying and conserving whitebark pine since 1999.
Email: [email protected]
Whitebark pines retained in a harvest unit near Canal Flats, BC. Clark’s nutcrackers collect seeds
A healthy whitebark pine with a ‘red flag’ branch.

Our Winter 2013 issue has a great collection of articles including an honest and reflective account of one man's career in tropical forestry, not withholding the regrets and mistakes that shaped it, a look at biochar application on forest stands in Ontario and the implications and opportunities of the work being done in the field, regional reports from across the country detailing upcoming conferences, initiatives and forest health concerns, as well as a new column dedicated to celebrating the incredible capabilities and skills that are uniquely forged through the experience of working in t