Sunday, September 28, 2014

Retired Foresters Tour North Island

Last week a group of retired foresters visited the North Vancouver Island to see different aspects of BC forestry.   The group consisted of men who combined have over 400 years of experience in the forest industry and sciences.  WFP was kind enough to send me on one of their tour days in the Port McNeill area.  The 11 retirees and the working professionals planned an introduction and explanation of how forestry in the North Island is different than other areas in BC. Western was the main host because they are the main timber company here or Tree Farm grantee. 
Stop #1: Dryland Sorts
We visited the lower and upper dryland sorts.  The lower sort is the main sort where logs are dropped into the water after being graded and scaled.  Jerry the yard foreman discussed how the majority of North Island’s timber moves through the lower dryland sort.  There are 6 decks for graders and scalers to work safely around the machines.  The Wagner or Stacker can pick up to 40 tons or an entire log bundle and dump it into the water. 

At the upper dryland sort export logs are stored.  Export logs are all trucked or transported to this yard to collect enough to make a boom. They are then pulled to the south Island to be placed on a container ship.  Poles are also stored here, laid out for buyers to grade and bid.    There is also a weigh scale where more uniform loads can be weighed instead all scaled by hand. 

Stop #2: Orca Sand & Gravel

The Orca Gravel pit has incredible scale.  They have a special use permit on Western’s Crown granted lands.  They are allowed to produce 128 million tons of rock material.  It opened in 2007, seriously bad timing.  Annually they export 4-6 million tons to California, usually San Francisco.  They mine, they sort, they clean, and they export.  This market is heavily dependent on the economic stability.  Almost once a week a barge shows up to ship 40 tons of gravel to San Francisco.  A conveyor belt runs under the highway, about 500m to the ocean, to the transport barge. 

The way the rocks are mined is with these huge tractor scrapers that drive along the bottom of the pit assisted with another to push along the floor until full.  Each scraper can collect up to 4 tons of material. They then bring it to the plant it self to sort and clean.  The piles are on top of sieves that can move the material with a shaking motion along conveyor belt to export.

Waste Management Site off Misty Main

Stop #3: Waste and Stumpage Program
Western recently partnered with a local contractor who utilizes the left over waste from clear-cut harvests.  We visited the first block the partnership began with.  WFP must pay for the left over wood or stumpage to the Crown.  By partnering with this contractor multiple parties benefit while additional use is made of the waste without additional cost. The wood is used for Sea Soil.  It is chipped up and mixed in with fish waste products to create a nutrient rich soil for home gardens.  You may even be able to find it in your local Home Depot. The logs are grinded in my front ‘yard’. It’s loud… 

Stop #4: Quatren, First Nation’s Partnership
Gord, Ralph, Dave, & Ray speaking about Quatren
Next we visited an active harvest site to talk with First Nation, Quatsino leader Ralph and other Western employees active in the partnership discussions. Quatren is a partnership with the Quatsino Tribe and Western to work together so that both parties benefit from the forest resources.  Quatren is a star child within Western to set an example to other branches to coexist in order for both parties to benefit. Together they share profits from working on Crown land 50-50. 

In British Columbia the First Nation Tribes have great influence on industry.  It is a touchy subject that brings out many opinions and challenges for communities and industries.  Companies must recognize that they cannot survive long term without support of the communities they work in yet; it is difficult to please all parties. 

Stop #5: Seven Hills Golf Course; Community Forests & Public Advisory Council
Seven Hill Golf Course is surrounded by prime forests but with acreage, sorry hectares of grass to play golf.  It is located almost equally between three communities for best access.  Again this area was located on Western’s Tree Farm License but given up to benefit the community with a special use permit.  Now one can play golf and even aim at the bears that wander on to the course.  We had yummy salmon burgers at the cafĂ© while we heard two people talk.

The Community Forest is a partnership between Port McNeill, Port Hardy, and Port Alice; three communities in the North Island.  A community forest is a special kind of land tenure that lasts forever granted by the crown.  Out of the 57 in BC, their CF is 50th is size yet is also the most profitable. This has to do with the dedication of professionals.  It doesn’t hurt that in Port McNeill alone there are 130 Register Professional Foresters out of the 4,000 residences. The towns act as shareholders and delegate a council appointed board of qualified forest professionals to maximize profits.  All proceeds go equally directly into the communities.  In the last four years that they have been in operation the communities have received funding that benefits sewer, power, hockey rinks, and curling clubs.  The CF helps fund the nuts and bolts of the communities. 

The Public Advisory Council is a group of professional representing public committees between Port McNeill and Port Hardy.  I’ve had the pleasure to attend one such meeting so far.  Anne Mary presented her perspective as an active member in the community on the importance of forestry activism and community involvement.  Once again the urgency was repeated among those present the dire need for more training and interest in the forest industry to see it to continue successfully. 

Stop #6: SCHIRP Research Project
Annette, our informative SHRIP expert
The SCHIRP or Salal Cedar Hemlock Integrated Research Project began in 1988 and has been a significant source of forest research in the North Island.  This integrated project was to measure and monitor the interaction between forests and brush management. Salal in particular can grow particularly thick yet can grow successfully with western redcedar.  This area has been a place of research for countless masters and PHD students that examined the complicated relationship with these ecosystems.  They have seen some incredible results.  The brief tour was a small introduction to the complexity of the many plots.  However regular fertilization and high densities have seen great success in brush management and tree volumes. 

Participating in the tour allowed me to meet, talk with, and listen to some of the most experience foresters in British Columbia.  I hope to see some of them again because I know they can teach all foresters a thing or two.  Hearing them talk and argue about current forest issues shows their dedication and love of forests.  It inspires me to motivate others to consider working in the woods. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Learning the Layout

Investigating an old logging road
Practicing laying out a block is a bit different than laying it out for work.  Firstly, it is with a very experienced forester versus beloved classmates.  Secondly the timber is actually going to be harvested instead of being a hypothetical area.  It is not over a four hour lab period but several 10 hour days.  While school is comfortable, learning in a professional setting drastically enhances that education.  
Good sized second growth timber

While I have been doing bits and pieces of laying out a block over the course of the last month and a half this time I am assisting in the entirety.  Working with Greg a well-experienced forest engineer he is teaching me how he sees the forest.

Getting to know the Block
Primarily we must understand the contents of the block in order to assign potential systems of harvesting and areas that could be hazardous.  We have to identify streams, timber volumes, rock hazards, sensitive areas, culturally modified artifacts, protected animal habitat, and a whole more.  We must gain an understanding of the landscape, terrain, and features to best fit a harvesting system.  This is called reconnaissance or reckie in Canada or recon in Oregon. 

Harvest System Options
Found a swamp in the middle of a block
While identifying the harvest systems available one must consider the equipment the particular company or contractors have on hand.  One is able to choose from ground based, cable systems, or heli-logging.  The cost increases in value in that order.  Port McNeill offers hoe chucking or shovel logging for ground based systems and are only used on lower slopes.  Cable systems in PM include grapple yarding and snorkel booms.  Grapple Yarders are most common.  Helicopter logging is incredibly expensive and are only consider for high value, steep sloped timbers.  At this point western redcedar is the wood of highest value in general. 
Gathering points with GPS at a Falling Corner

Laying Boundary
Once an area is more of less understood boundary tags are put in the block and marked using a GPS to draw a map.  Boundary must include riparian management areas (RMAs) and special management zones in order to comply with best forest practices identified by both the Crown and WFP.

Surveying the Roads
Once the boundary is set, roads will be put in with surveying methods.  The roads are placed in to best access the timber to load on to trucks. Landings are built on the roads to process the logs and load the trucks.  We as planning engineers use lasers to measure distances, a clinometer to get slopes, a GPS to map and a notebook to record.  Marking tape shows road builders where the road center line should be placed. 

Surveying a road with a laser
Finalizing Harvesting Instructions
The combined information gathered through laying out a block is then combined into a pack of harvest instructions that will be added to an entire package.  Foresters for planting and extra instructions regarding harvest and post-harvest treatments will add to this package.  Geotechnical engineers, biologists, anthropologists are all consultants who may be contacted for further information and professional advice.  The combined information will then be submitted to the Ministry of Forests to be approved.

This is a simplified version but I am still learning and want to teach the audience of this blog what I am doing in the woods. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Morning of Grapple Yarding

The last couple of weeks have been a collection of activities at Western and the North Island.  From forestry to engineering to road layout to community involvement there has been plenty to learn and be involved with. 

One morning we got to visit an active harvest sight.  A grapple yarder was working off of Cluxewee Main.  A grapple yarder is a cable system that brings a grapple or claw-like tongs to grab logs and drag them to the landing decks.  This yarder had six-barrel drums of cable of varying sizes and uses.  The yarder booms was approximately 40ft tall and can move up or down depending on the amount of deflection needed to carry the logs down.   There were three crewmembers working on the sight that day.  A hooktender was the crew leader who decided where the next road changes would be established. He changed the roads and directed the yarder operator to the best logs to grab.  The operator stayed with the machine while the chaser monitored the guylines and conducted miscellaneous tasks. 
The yarder guyline on a stump anchor

Three out of six barrel drums on the yarder
The foresters had to reassess the terrain because the loggers and engineers realized that the initial harvest plan was not going to safely work.  The original plan was not going to give the yarder sufficient deflection to bring the logs to the landing safely.  The new system was now altered to go into an adjacent free growing block across a stream. This plan ensures better safety practices and the operator is in a better line of sight while fully suspending logs across the stream bed.

It is wonderful to see day-to-day collaboration between foresters, engineers, and operators.  Through the knowledge and experience from these professionals practical, environmental, and safety concerns can be addressed without incidents that could cause harm. 

Late Summer Play Time

The exploration of Vancouver Island has continued as the summer extends into September. The weather at the North Island has been fantastic.  It almost cannot be too hot or sunny. The extra dose of sunshine has extended happy adventures available on here.  I'm going to describe a little bit of the fun I have been having on the weekends when I am not working.  

One Saturday I took time to explore Malcolm Island.  It is about a 20 minute ferry ride from Port McNeill.  The main and only town on the Island is Sointula of maybe 500 people.  Finnish settlers hoping to create a utopian society originally established it.  Their hopes eventually faded but left a charming village with welcoming feel to it.  The goal was to  experience Salmon Days, the annual festival and hike to Beare Point.  I made it across Johnston Straight in time to eat my packed lunch and watch the parade cruise by.  The parade was smaller than Port McNeill’s but included floral tractors and people dressed up like salmon. 
After the quaint parade I hitched up my backpack and mounted my bike in search of logging roads to Beare Point Trailhead.  A pleasant ride through town took me to the logging roads maintained by the Quatsino Tribe (I think).  4 kilometers later I passed through Beare Point Campground to the trailhead.  Locking my bike together I threw it into the bushes and hoped for the best.  The trail was peaceful and quite. I meandered along the ocean coast giving glimpses of water views.  The trail led to a rocky beach where whales are known to rise up to rub their bellies.  It was a gorgeous day. The Beare Point hike was topped off with coffee with fellow hikers.  Two strangers had joined camping together for a few days and I stopped by to chat.  It was a great example of Canadian hospitality at their campsite in the cooling afternoon.

Another recent excursion took me to the water in a different way.  Ladies and gentlemen my new favorite mode of transportation is sea kayaking! Well it at least joins the list of mountain bike, city bus transit, and Amtrak train.  I spent a day in Telegraph Cove to go on a day kayaking trip.  I knew that summer was on its way out so I had to help with the send off. Their tourist season was down and so are their prices.  Alas I arrived 30 minutes early anxious not to miss the boat!    

What was planned to be a group trip turned into a person kayak trip. Brian the nice guide had the two boats and me among his charges.  We paddled East along the Vancouver Island coast line.  The tide was super low at times and we could see the many sea creatures on the ocean floor.  Starfish, bull kelp, anemones, fish, and crabs of different colors and sizes were visible below the surface.  Above the surface we witnessed fish jumping, seals coming up for air and porpoises swimming in the surf.  Eagles stared us down from their high branches of pine trees on isolated islands. To top it off the sun was out and the winds were calm.  It was a beautiful day to be on the water and experience BC from the water. 

Adventures continue inside and outside the office :)