Saturday, August 30, 2014

Summer Tree Plant

Lisa the Forester, WFP
This week has been dedicated to the fall tree planting.  The units or ‘blocks’ as their called in Canada are typically located in areas inaccessible in the spring.  That being said the slopes are steep the roads getting there are long.  Lisa is the professional forester from Western leading the project.  The contractor hired to plant is Timberlands Reforestation.  They brought about 20 people to get the job done.  As foresters from the hiring company we verify the quality and quantity of seedlings put in the ground at each block. 

The clouds finally rolling in at the top on one block
Why plant in the summer? The blocks being planted are typically still covered in snow come spring time.  As long as the ground is moist they should set on great.  Usually the goal is to achieve between 1000 and 1200 trees per hectare.  Depending on site conditions the following trees may be planted: yellow cedar, western redcedar, western hemlock, or Sitka spruce.  The seedlings are delivered every 5 days from the nurseries.  The less time the seedlings are in the field the better luck they have to survive.  Western plants 9 million trees annually. This contract will put 200,000 trees in the ground.  Each seedling will be planted with a fertilizer pack to boost the nutrients available to the plant.  About half of the trees come from a tree nursery owned by Western in the southern part of the island.  

Western redcedar 1 year seedlings come in packs of six.
Measured 4 x 10 cm caps
On Monday, Western Foresters conducted a safety presentation for the planters. They come from all walks of life and experience.  Many of them would be considered professional planters because they may be planting 9 months of the year and have been for a long time.  The planters are a very friendly bunch of people coming from all across Canada.  They were all eager to begin work and put the trees in the ground. 

The first week the planters were split into three groups throughout three blocks the furthest distance from camp.  It is our job to visit each site and verify that the planters are meeting the site prescription.  

Me at plot center
As foresters checking seedling densities we conduct plot surveys throughout each block to get an understanding of planting quality.  The plot circles are 3.99m in diameter and are measured with a shovel at the center with a string to swing the plot.  We count each of the planted seedlings within the circle.  We identify any issues seen such as planted too close, wrong soil type, J-roots, plantable spot, etc.  The trees must be at least 2m apart.  We record all data on an I-pad using an App called PlantWizard, specifically made for seedling surveys.  All data is then shared with the planters in an exchange of data to confirm that the contract is being properly fulfilled. 

Western redcedar seedling in the ground
Last week we went out 3 times to the blocks they were working.  The drive is long, making the actual workday short.  The blocks were near Mahatta a place that once was a small logging town on the Neurosis Bay on the West side of the Island.  It took a mere 3.5 hours of driving to get to the blocks on logging roads.  Four-wheel drive is a must to make it anywhere out there.  Out there in the boonies, Lamare mostly runs Mahatta as the primary contractor.  Lamare World as we called it was a bit of a rodeo navigating the roads.  The roads are unfamiliar and confusing to newcomers.  Directions switch from In or Out to Up or Down.  The roads have nicknames or referenced differently in local lingo.  Luckily the log truck drivers were kind enough to help us out when we did not understand their calls on the radio. 

The blocks themselves are incredibly steep and rough terrain.  The slopes easily achieve 90% in some places.  The ground varies from soft to flat rock to covered in dense slash. Slash is the left woody debris from the harvest.  This particular contract is no easy task.  The elevation is high and slopes steep with little relief for the 10 days they are working.  Immense respect must be given to the planters for the hard work they take on.  Their packs are up to 40 lbs carrying trees and fertilizers to cover the whole block with trees.  It is hard work in the backwoods of North Vancouver Island. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Shocked Fish and Shovel like Crazy

Fire Weed and Hemlock tops

It has become clear that if I want to disclose the cool projects I have been witness to I must update you all more regularly!

Today I worked with a fellow intern and a biologist.  The biologist was hired to determine if there was fish in a couple streams on Western land.  She strapped on her shocker backpack and we led the way down the first stream.  If you have never seem fish be shocked well, today was not the greatest day to see it.  We walked the entire first stream to a larger one without finding any fish.  The water was mucky with orange sediment.  We later learned that a landslide had happened upstream prior.  The verdict of the stream was left for another day. Further investigation into the watershed will likely determine it as possible for fish habitat and will be treated as such. 

Hopping back in our truck we drove past Port Hardy to the road Rupert 400 to another bridge.  Replacing our gear on our backs we pumped ourselves up for another creek trek.  The brush looked thick.  Climbing down the steep edge near the bridge we carried on.  The biologist tested out the large pools, often with logs that provided protection.  In the very first pool she spotted a fish! Okay so yay for not having to trek the entire stream but, it means that the road crossing must be treated with extra caution.  Pros that the fish habitat will be protected with extra stream buffers and bridge construction will be not happen during prime season.  Cons are that the company has to spend more money and time planning an optimal solution.  And the history of logging in the area was not as conscientious as they are now, that there was logging right up against the stream line so the system may feel this impact already.   
Carrying on now… Last week I got the opportunity to ride in an off-highway log truck! An excellent driver Ceese was kind enough to let me ride along on his route up Raging Iron Road.  These trucks are especially large! They have been around a long while.  Their water brakes allows them to slow down and stop on particularly steep routes.  The truck goes from 20,000 lbs empty to close to 60,000lbs loaded.  As the truck was being loaded the operator let me watch from the inside of his loader cab.  It was a long and slow ride back to camp but Ceese and I rocked out to 80’s music blasted above the loud roar of the powerful engine. 

In my first week I got to go with a couple of engineers to an active construction site. They were setting up a berm or a barrier to protect the workshop from potential landslides.  A stream had to be rerouted. Luckily there was not water in the streambed so the shovel was able to work without issue.  An environmental monitor was on site in case anything went wrong regarding the stream health.  We all spent the day watching the shovel and rock truck work to form adequately strengthened walls and stream features.

Retaining Wall
 At the very end we had a very long drive home.  We made a quick detour to a new bridge.  It is a log bridge, made out of some of their largest logs to support the huge log loads.  We also treated ourselves to stop for a glance at huge retaining wall project.  It was about 10m long and intended to hold up the road edge.  The wall was very cool to see applied!

Log Bridge is greater than 6m across or else
is known as box culvert, with different regulations
In addition to log truck rides, berm or culvert installation block or unit layouts has been important.  At this point it is a lot of brush, wind blown logs, and trekking.  The woods here are wonderful and not without their challenges!  They are teaching me how to use the GPS to take coordinates of boundaries, points, roads, and streams.  It is applying the abstract schooling I have been taught to layouts they will actually use.  Scaling up steep slopes to see the block through the eyes of a forester provides road location, crew hazards, and timber value.  We look for Goss hawks and streambeds.  Wet areas and rocks are all concerns that must be given attention in the planning that happens years in advance to any action. 
The timber blow down we climbed for boundary lay out

There is lots to learn about how the forest industry and communities functions.   Coming soon are some shots from the Port McNeill Orca Fest! It is the big town festival of the year! People came from all over the island to play slow pitch ball.  There was a parade, dance, awards, food, and craft booths.  Lots of people watching to be had and meet. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Trials of the Caulk Boots

 Caulk boots as defined by Wikipedia are “leather nail-soled boots usually worn by logger” and used by those who work in the woods.  Caulk is pronounced, “cork” or commonly known as Corks.  Yes I did look it up for those who may be unfamiliar with the ways of the woods.  It was not until this past year or two did I learn the correct spelling or pronunciation of these fine boots.   #foresternewb

Let me tell you that mine are something special… At least that is what I am going to tell you because how else am I going to comfortably break them in? 

My feet are apparently little compared to the typical logger searching for boots to scale up logs and tromp through heavy brush.  The kind man of Sedlak’s Boot Store in Corvallis was incredibly helpful to find the perfect boot.  I bought a fine pair of Viberg Logger’s boots.  These are hand build rubber bottomed and leather topped made in Victoria, BC!  They only took two and a half months to arrive to Corvallis... It was barely in time for me to leave for Canada to begin work. Or so I thought…

The first day of work at WFP I discovered that my boots were too big.  They slipped around the entire boot.  The half day spent climbing over logs, brush, and streams was not pleasant.  My right heel has developed a nice bit of broken skin. The following day I was lucky enough to not have to wear them, for a little reprieve.

A fine path for Stream Traversing
On my first day off I walked my way to the local Shop Rite. It is one of four outdoors stores in Port McNeill. For a town of 3,000 people I was impressed.  I invested in these bootie socks to add cushion and take up space inside my boots. Luckily, they’ve worked for the most part! My feet are no longer slipping and sliding inside the rubber bottomed boots.

A mostly hemlock stand about 100 yrs old
However the adjustments continued after a lovely walk in the woods.  My bootlaces were way too long!  Every 10 minutes I would have to stop and retie them to keep from tripping.  Though you should know when I said lovely walk I meant more like a day of battling biting bugs, fending off salmon berry, and climbing TONS of blown down logs.  I figured to knot them as best I could to hold back the dangling strings and to deal with the consequences later. 

Spending 30 minutes in the dry room with the scent of smelly boots and sweaty cruising vests is 29 minutes too long.  Yes I could have brought them upstairs back to my room but my poor knees were not having it. Instead I sat on the floor of that dry, odorous room unknotting my too long laces.  After using them three days in the field with too long laces I had had it.  I took scissors to those lengthy laces to somewhat decrease my chances of tripping.

And so, it is the weekend and my feet can rest up a bit.  I will not have to go through the routine of bandaging the heels of my feet to manage to get through the day.   

A-Frame log dump site in Mahatta

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Western Forest Products

Western Forest Products is a Canadian company that manages forests and manufactures quality wood products in British Columbia.  With approximately 2,000 employees concentrated on Vancouver Island and western BC.  They harvest approximately 6.4 million cubic meters or 27 million mbf annually.  WFP is the largest land manager on the Island and has considerable influence on the local economies.

Lots of limestone on the island
Western Forest Products’ “goal is to produce wood products that meet and exceed customer expectations for quality, sustainability and certification.  All [their] systems and processes are continually being improved to satisfy [the] customers’ changing needs.”  The identified core company values are: operating priorities, open and transparent communication, create trust through mutual respect, and a culture of continues improvement.  The operation priorities include personal safety, environmental stewardship, product quality, and productivity.  The top priority in all operations is safety.  WFP strives to achieve the best safety training and procedures to allow employees to be safe on the job. 

The company railway
WFP manages landed granted from the Crown.  They do not own the land but are given 50 year contracts allowing them the rights to harvest and manage the land for timber.  Five main species are found and harvested on Vancouver Island including: western redcedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and yellow cedar.  The company generally designs ground operations with year round systems in effect.  Western Forest Products registers all harvesting operations and manufacturing to internationally recognized environmental certifications that include regular audits.  Their commitment to environmental protection is evident in their cultural and social considerations, site sensitivity treatment, pollution prevention, recycling, and waste and emission reduction initiatives. 

Large "Booms" transport logs to the south part of Island
Bark chipper outside my room
WFP owns and operates 8 mills located in the southern part of the Island.  International export of logs is an interest but not a priority. The majority of their wood products stay within Canada with some export to the United States.  They are committed to providing high quality products to customers while maintaining valuable social connections within the local communities.  Their employees are highly qualified and dedicated individuals committed to reflect a community focused on achieving company goals.  Western Forest Products makes creating a safe, happy, productive, and continuing improving workplace a priority for those working at WFP. 

All information and statistics was found on Western Forest Products website.  
"Quality, Sustainable, Certified - Western Forest Products." Western Forest Products. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.

Welcomed to Canada

Made it to Canada! And even better it is with a valid work visa! You can start singing now. It’s allowed, I won’t scream of frustration at you. Oh Canada … my home and blah blah blah… Okay I have something to learn...  To say the least getting through the Canadian immigration system has been a challenge.  After exactly two months of playing the waiting game the official verification later arrived.  However, ironically it had to arrive the week I am attempting recover from an ear infection.  Alas by now I have recovered after a round of antibiotics.  I am writing this to you from a company desk in Woss or the Englewood Operations Office.  It is a stop point on my way to Port McNeill as I wait for John Something to finish his work duties to drive up there. 

After a series of emails it was decided to begin work on August 5, 2014 in Campbell River.  I took the Bolt Bus from Portland to Vancouver, BC on Sunday August 2nd. There were a few tense minutes when I was almost positive the bus was going to leave without me because the border patrol guard was taking so darn long.  Turned out I was not in the system after failing to register with the CIC. (Lesson noted…)  A sigh of relief left me as I rushed back to the bus next to Camille Moyer a fellow OSU wood science friend who happened to be on the same bus bound for IFSS.  My Holiday Work Visa was verified and delivered.  My passport now being a bit thicker I can officially and legally work in Canada.  

Arriving in Vancouver I took a quick bus ride to my bed for the night.  Found on I relaxed on the outdoor porch most of the afternoon while working on the online poetry course I had signed up for during my long period of waiting.  It was almost too hot to do anything anyways; I decided I had seen enough of Vancouver earlier this summer.  Monday morning I walked around the nearby Queen Elizabeth Gardens to admire the flowers and city view.  That afternoon I hopped on the smallest plane I had ever been on to fly to Campbell River. It only took about 35 minutes but it was tight.  Bending low to maneuver to an available seat on the wing I clambered out to the tiny airport. My host kindly picked me up and allowed a pass by the grocery store. 

Tuesday morning began with a trip to the main office to meet with Ray.  He took me to the Service Canada Centre to obtain a SIN number to begin work.  It was almost like the DMV.  After meeting nearly everyone in the Campbell River office John gave me a 45 minute ride up to his office in Woss. I got to meet all the people around the Woss or Englewood Office too. In total at least fifty people.  Port McNeill this evening and who knows what tomorrow will bring but at least I will have my boots!  Birks do not necessarily cut it on the slopes of BC.
Log trucks parked near a railroad loading station in Woss