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  • Legendary BC forester Herb Hammond explains the need to shift from a timber-extraction-focussed view of forests to a relationship founded in the value of the ecosystem services forests provide.

    Project Staff

    In a letter written to the Haida Gwaii Management Council in 2020, Hammond describes ecosystem-based forest management and its benefits.



    February 3, 2020

    Haida Gwaii Management Council PO Box 589
    Masset, Haida Gwaii, BC
    V0T 1M0

    Via email: admin@haidagwaiimanagementcouncil.ca Dear Council Members:

    Re: Haida Gwaii Timber Supply Review Public Discussion Paper

    I am hopeful that the information contained in this letter and attachments will be of interest to the Haida Gwaii Management Council (the Council). Given the seriousness of the climate emergency and the vital roles played by intact forests, particularly old- growth temperate rain forests, I believe my suggestions are important for achieving enduring ecologically, socially, and economically responsible forest management on Haida Gwaii.

    To begin, I would like to support the analysis and recommendations to the Council of Dr. Suzanne Simard and Dr. Teresa Ryan of The Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, University of British Columbia as expressed in their letter of January 14, 2020. Their discussion of loss of carbon stocks and climate change, and loss of biodiversity and endangered species form important background for my suggestions. Thus, I will not repeat the points made in the Simard/Ryan letter.


    Ecosystem Services Supply Review versus Timber Supply Review

    The climate change emergency brings focus to the reality that the ecosystem services provided free of charge by intact forest ecosystems are the public interest —essential services that we cannot live without. Complex biological diversity, pure water, air purification, climate moderation, carbon sequestration and storage, and spiritual sustenance are essential realities that we cannot live without. In that regard, timber, tourism, community development, and other forms of resource use need to be viewed as byproducts of protecting and restoring natural ecological integrity.

    There is a plethora of scientific findings that support the need to protect intact forests — intact ecosystems. I have attached one of those research findings: “The exceptional value of the intact forest ecosystems” Watson et al. Nature Ecology and Evolution. Vol 2. April, 2018. The message of this

    Haida Gwaii TSR Discussion Paper suggestions 2 publication is summarized in a Nature Comment, November, 2018, which I have also included for the Council’s review.

    An analysis of forests for timber, i.e. a timber supply review, puts the cart before the horse. In other words, if our focus is the maintenance of essential ecosystem services, then the first question to ask is: What is the current condition of ecosystem services, and what is needed to protect, and where necessary, restore these services? The answer to this question may be obtained through an Ecosystem Services Supply Analysis.

    Haida knowledge of the natural character and functioning of Haida Gwaii forests is essential for constructing an accurate Ecosystem Services Supply Analysis. From the landscape to the patch, the natural character and functioning of Haida Gwaii forests constitute the baseline or benchmark for defining healthy levels of ecosystem services.

    Once this question about ecosystem services is answered, the land area, constraints to timber supply, and the volume of timber available may be derived. Thus, timber or “timber supply,” needs to be seen as a byproduct of protecting and restoring ecosystem services. I suggest that the Council undertake an Ecosystem Services Supply Analysis as the foundation for determining the availability of timber on Haida Gwaii.

    An Ecosystem Services Supply Analysis is consistent with the principles and practice of EBM (ecosystem-based management) as specified In the Strategic Land Use Agreement (SLUA). In particular, such an analysis is consistent with the EBM principle of focus first on what to protect then on what to use.

    The TSR Public Discussion Paper describes a “long-term timber harvesting landbase” for all forest tenure operating areas, including the timber supply area (TSA) managed by British Columbia under BC Timber Sales. An ecosystem-based timber harvesting landbase cannot be determined in the absence of an ecosystem services supply analysis, and the establishment of watershed scale networks of ecological reserves to protect essential ecosystem services (see below).

    The Junst’aa Guu-Kundt’aayah Reconciliation Protocol between the Haida Nation and British Columbia calls for “collaborative arrangements that include socioeconomic matters pertaining to children and families.” Nothing can be more important to the well-being of children and families then the protection of essential ecosystem services, particularly in the face of the climate emergency.


    Networks of Ecosystem Reserves—The Land Use Objectives Order (LUOO)

    “... Establishes legal objectives for forest-based values to support implementation of ecosystem- based management. These objectives protect important Haida cultural values, support ecosystem integrity and provide environmental benefit by maintaining the diversity and abundance of organisms on Haida Gwaii. Human well-being will be maintained through policies and initiatives designed to achieve socio-economic benefits, including carbon values, and timber harvest levels that will support a viable forest industry.”

    The specifications of LUOO provide a measure of protection for important Haida cultural values and pieces of ecological integrity. While well-meaning, in many cases these protections are fragmented and isolated in a landscape of industrial timber management, i.e. clearcuts. This situation means that “protection” for Haida cultural values and/or ecological integrity is either illusory or very impermanent due to the effects of degraded ecosystems that surround protected areas established under LUOO.

    The ecosystem-based solution to this problem is to incorporate the specifications of LUOO within networks of ecological reserves at multiple spatial scales. These networks of ecological reserves are identified beginning from as large an area as possible and progressing to small areas. In other words, landscape/watershed networks of ecological reserves are designated, and where human activities occur in the areas outside these networks of reserves, patch scale networks of ecological reserves are designated to guide various land uses from timber to tourism.

    I have included a short paper I prepared entitled: “Nature-based Planning — a short definition,” November, 2018. This paper includes an example of designing networks of ecological reserves at multiple spatial scales. This example is taken from an ecosystem-based conservation plan, i.e. nature- based plan prepared for the Innu Nation in Nitassinan, aka Labrador.

    The protection of approximately half of Haida Gwaii in large protected areas is a significant and progressive step towards protecting biological diversity, ecological integrity, and ecosystem services. However, these protected areas, particularly those found on Graham and Moresby Islands are surrounded by the matrix, or the area which has been extensively modified by industrial timber management and is the ongoing landbase for industrial timber management. The matrix is the area for which the timber supply review is being conducted. Without maintaining habitat, connectivity, and natural representative ecosystems across the matrix, not only is the integrity and resilience of the matrix lost, but also over time the loss of integrity in the matrix will degrade the biological diversity, ecological integrity, and cultural values of the protected areas.

    Thus, the ecological integrity of the matrix needs to be protected, in order to protect the ecological integrity of the protected areas. In Importance of matrix habitats in maintaining biological diversity, Jerry Franklin and David Lindenmayer, PNAS, vol 106, no. 2, 349-350, January 13, 2009 (attached to this letter) state:

    Hence, conservation of biological diversity has to involve maintenance of habitat at multiple spatial scales, from the scale of centimeters to that of thousands of hectares. For example, critical habitat for some species may be the provision of an individual structure, such as a standing dead tree or a log on the forest floor, in an otherwise human-modified environment. For other species it may be the provision of a large natural reserve, with a diversity of habitat conditions.

    We strongly agree with Prugh et al. (1) that resource management practices that maintain or improve the suitability of the matrix are fundamental to the conservation of biodiversity.

    Establishing networks of ecological reserves at multiple spatial scales in the matrix will provide for the protection of many, if not all of the remaining primary, old-growth forests outside of formal protected areas. Once networks of ecological reserves are established in the matrix, a potential timber harvesting landbase may be identified. I refer to this landbase as potential for timber management, because I believe the final decision for such a determination needs to be made by affected Haida communities.


    Proforestation as opposed to Deforestation and “Reforestation” — Planting Trees

    The choice of clear-cut timber management followed by planting trees is erroneously referred to on Haida Gwaii and elsewhere as “sustainable forest management.” This approach to timber extraction results in the degradation and often destruction of ecological integrity and biological diversity. Clearcuts degrade water, pollute air, and change local climates. Clearcuts create what has been referred to as carbon sequestration “dead zones,” and result in large losses of carbon storage. These effects of alleged sustainable forest management contribute significantly to global heating and associated climate disruption.

    In contrast, practicing proforestation, i.e. growing existing forests intact to their ecological potential (Moomaw et al, 2019) maintains ecological services while providing a diversity of socio-economic benefits. I have attached a copy of “Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good,” William R. Moomaw, Susan A. Masino, and Edward K. Faison in frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 11 June, 2019.

    Replacing clearcutting with partial cutting using a proforestation approach on the timber harvesting landbase for Haida Gwaii is an important step towards maintaining ecological integrity while providing a wide diversity of social and economic benefits. The timber harvesting landbase will be as determined through an ecosystem services supply analysis and establishment of multiple spatial scale ecological reserves in the matrix. Partial cutting will include the designation of “full cycle” trees, which remain on the cut area to live out their full lives, become snags, and eventually fall to the forest floor. Full cycle trees are an important way to maintain biological diversity and ecological integrity at the stand or patch scale.


    Ecological Reserves, Proforestation, Partial Cutting, and Economic Opportunities

    Applying proforestation on an ecologically and culturally appropriate timber management landbase will result in growing trees to ages far in excess of conventionally determined “rotation ages.” Unlike assumptions for “merchantable” tree age under conventional timber management, trees will be cut close to their ecological maturity under proforestation. This will result in the production of high quality, mature wood that is well suited to a wide spectrum of value-added wood products, from art and musical instruments to millwork and finished cabinetry. Such value-added wood products will produce 5 to 7 times or more jobs per tree cut compared to the production of commodity lumber.

    Partial cutting, including the establishment of full-cycle trees will necessitate a more labour-intensive, careful form of timber removal. Such forest sensitive timber removal will provide additional jobs per tree cut, compared to clear-cut and mechanized logging.

    The transition from clear-cut timber management to ecological reserves, proforestation, and partial cutting may in part be achieved through including small areas of remaining old-growth in the timber harvesting landbase. Over a short period of time, perhaps 5 to 10 years, the small areas of old-growth, managed under partial cutting, could provide the high quality wood to initiate significant value-added wood products manufacturing. During this transition period, proforestation and partial cutting could shift to older second growth forests within the timber management landbase. In part the transition period provides time for the development of innovative value-added wood products from second-growth forests.

    The shift to proforestation, partial cutting, and value-added wood products manufacturing could in part be funded by a tree carbon tax. Such a tax would be calculated by tree age and tree size, with the carbon tax increasing as tree age and/or tree size increase. In this way, a tree carbon tax would discourage the cutting of larger and older trees, while providing a revenue source to redefine forestry from timber exploitation to forest protection and restoration.

    I hope the suggestions contained in this letter are of interest and help to the Haida Gwaii Management Council. Due to time constraints, many details of implementing the suggestions outlined in this letter have not been included. If the Council is interested I would be pleased to both answer questions, and provide missing details associated with my suggestions.


    Herb Hammond, Forest Ecologist & RPF


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