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Tree Farm Licence 45



Integrated Resource Management (IRM) objectives

The Ministry of Forests is required by the Ministry of Forests Act to manage, protect and conserve the forest and range resources of the Crown and to plan the use of these resources to ensure production and harvesting of timber and the realization of fisheries, wildlife, water, outdoor recreation and other natural resource values are coordinated and integrated. Accordingly, the extent to which IRM objectives constrain the timber supply must be considered in AAC determinations.

- soils

A total of 2524 hectares characterized by highly sensitive soils has been identified in TFL 45. Of the 1142 hectares of these highly sensitive areas located within the operable land base, 95 percent was considered unavailable for timber harvesting in the analysis, leaving 54 hectares of areas with highly sensitive soils in the timber harvesting land base. An additional 4686 hectares are characterized by moderately sensitive soils, and of this area, 2786 hectares are within the operable land base. In the analysis, to reflect management actions needed to protect soils, 20 percent of these areas located within the Phillips Arm portion of the TFL and 5 percent of these areas located within Knight Inlet were considered unavailable for timber harvesting, leaving 2413 hectares of areas with moderately sensitive soils in the timber harvesting land base. This approach was approved by staff of the Vancouver Forest Region as representative of current management, and I am satisfied that the sensitive soils areas are modelled using reasonable assumptions.

- avalanche

A total of 2420 hectares in TFL 45 are characterized by unstable soils with an avalanche risk. Of the 411 hectares of these avalanche-prone areas within the operable land base, 85 percent were assumed to be unavailable for timber harvesting in the analysis, leaving 61 hectares of area prone to avalanche within the timber harvesting land base. This assumption has been approved by Vancouver Forest Region staff, and I am satisfied that the analysis accounts adequately for these areas and that no further adjustment is required on this account in this determination.

- recreation

A recreation inventory, which included biophysical, cultural, and historical features and their current and potential recreational use, was completed by the licensee and approved in 1995 by Vancouver Forest Region staff. Of the 386 hectares of highly sensitive recreation areas identified in the TFL, 212 hectares are within the operable land base. To represent management actions needed to maintain highly sensitive recreation areas, it was assumed in the analysis that on average 95 percent of these areas are unavailable for harvesting, leaving 7 hectares of highly sensitive recreation areas within the timber harvesting land base of TFL 45. In addition, 3141 hectares of moderately sensitive recreation areas have been identified in the TFL, of which 1343 hectares are within the operable land base. In the analysis, a 40-percent reduction was applied to the majority of these areas. Some moderately sensitive recreation areas were reduced by specific amounts, ranging from 10 to 50 percent. In total, 723 hectares of moderately sensitive recreation areas are assumed to be within the timber harvesting land base of TFL 45. I believe that the assumptions used in the analysis reasonably reflect management of recreation resources, and I am satisfied that the timber supply impact of recreation has been adequately represented.

- wildlife habitat

Mapping of sensitive habitat was provided to Interfor by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks in January, 1995. The information from these draft maps was incorporated into Interfor's mapping system and into the timber supply analysis. A total of 2354 hectares of highly sensitive wildlife area was identified in TFL 45, of which 1395 hectares are within the operable land base. Of these operable areas, 95 percent are considered unavailable for timber harvesting, leaving 57 hectares of highly sensitive wildlife area within the timber harvesting land base. In addition, 1217 hectares of moderately sensitive wildlife area was identified, of which 550 hectares are considered to be within the operable land base. Of these operable wildlife habitat areas, 40 percent are assumed to be unavailable for timber harvesting in the analysis, leaving 304 hectares of moderately sensitive wildlife habitat areas within the timber harvesting land base of TFL 45. I am satisfied that the reductions applied to the operable wildlife habitat areas reflect integrated management for timber and wildlife habitat and are appropriate for use in this determination. However, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks staff have indicated that some of the wildlife habitat areas on the Interfor maps have been shifted by approximately 50 to 100 metres from the valley bottoms to uphill sites. This mapping error was incorporated into the timber supply analysis. Although the amount of area managed as wildlife habitat is modeled correctly, some of these areas have been shifted from high-productivity valley sites to uphill sites characterized by lower productivity. If these areas were shifted back to the correct location, the timber supply would be decreased slightly, since fewer high-productivity sites—but more lower-productivity sites—would be available for harvesting. Since there is only a small amount of area affected by this error, I consider it to represent a small, unquantified downward pressure that does not pose a risk to short-term timber supply. I expect the licensee to correct this error so that the corrected assumptions can be incorporated into the next analysis.

It has come to my attention recently that the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks has expressed concerns regarding mountain goat habitat in high elevation areas, and particularly in avalanche areas, in the Knight Inlet portion of the TFL. Mountain goat habitat was not considered in the timber supply analysis, and as a result, the impact that this habitat has on timber supply has not been assessed at this time. The amount of the timber harvesting land base affected by mountain goat habitat has not yet been quantified. I expect that this matter will be clarified for the next determination. In the meantime, I am satisfied that any operational concerns regarding mountain goat habitat will be accounted for through the application of the Forest Practices Code. Moreover, I do not expect this issue to represent a significant risk to short-term timber supply because most mountain goat habitat areas are located in higher elevations where there is a relatively small proportion of harvesting activity planned for the short term. Accordingly, I have made no adjustment to account for mountain goat habitat in my determination.

- riparian/fisheries habitat

Based on meetings and conversations with BCFS staff in November 1995, it was decided that a 30-metre reserve along class A and B streams and a 20-metre reserve around class A and B lakes would meet anticipated Forest Practices Code requirements for protection of riparian habitat. These specifications were applied in the analysis, with 90 percent of the area within these reserves excluded from the timber harvesting land base. In addition, there are approximately 257 kilometres of class C streams in the TFL. Interfor estimates that 95 percent of these streams are minor, and require no reserves. The remaining class C streams, and the 30-metre riparian reserve applied to them, cover approximately 77.1 hectares of the productive forest land base. This area was removed proportionately from all analysis units in the analysis. In total, 253 hectares have been excluded from the timber harvesting land base (after other reductions) to account for riparian reserve areas—a deduction of approximately 1 percent. However, the analysis did not account for harvesting restrictions in riparian management zones, which are required in addition to reserves under the Forest Practices Code.

I believe that the technique used to determine the amount of class A, B and C streams is reasonable. Furthermore, I note that in November 1993, Interfor was advised by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to use a 20-metre reserve for class A streams and major class B and C streams, and a 30-metre reserve for class A lakes. The DFO also suggested adding an additional 5 metres for class A streams to account for sensitive fisheries habitat. BCFS staff indicate that the reserves applied in the timber supply analysis likely limit timber supply more than those suggested by the DFO since a wider reserve zone was applied to both class A and B streams in the analysis than was recommended by the DFO. However, the fact that the reserves are larger than recommended does not necessarily offset the lack of accounting for riparian management zones. Furthermore, I am concerned that the amount of area excluded from the timber harvesting land base for riparian management is significantly smaller than the reductions applied in other management units comparable to TFL 45. Based on experience with comparable management units such as the Strathcona TSA (as detailed in the Forest Practices Code Timber Supply Analysis), the impact of riparian management represents an additional downward pressure of 2 to 3 percent in the short, medium and long term. I have accounted for this downward influence under "Reasons for Decision", below.

- biodiversity

Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is the full range of living organisms, in all their forms and levels of organization, and includes the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems, and the evolutionary and functional processes that link them. The Code acknowledges the need to conserve biodiversity, and a supporting guidebook has been released that addresses stand- and landscape-level biodiversity needs for a variety of ecological units found within the province. A major consideration in managing for biodiversity at the landscape level is leaving sufficient and appropriately located mature forests for species dependent on, or strongly associated with, old-growth forests. At the stand level, retention of wildlife tree patches and coarse woody debris are the major biodiversity concerns.

Currently in TFL 45, stand-level biodiversity is partially accounted for through the use of the clearcut-with-reserves silviculture system, which involves the permanent or temporary retention of groups of standing trees within cutblock boundaries. The licensee indicates that mapping of forest ecosystem networks (FENs), which contribute to the achievement of landscape-level biodiversity, is underway and is currently being reviewed by Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks staff.

The impact of stand-level biodiversity was not accounted for in the analysis. Analysis work conducted in the Strathcona and Sunshine Coast Timber Supply Areas, which incorporated Code requirements for riparian areas, indicates that stand-level biodiversity, in the absence of specific landscape-level biodiversity provisions, decreases the volume of available timber by approximately 2 percent. I consider this to be a reasonable estimate of the timber supply impacts of stand-level biodiversity in TFL 45. Accordingly, I have considered stand-level biodiversity requirements as an additional 2 percent downward pressure on timber supply.

With respect to landscape-level biodiversity, the licensee indicates that approximately 46 percent of the productive forest land base is excluded from the timber harvesting land base, and it is probable that there is more than enough area covered by representative species to account for landscape-level biodiversity. It may be possible to develop a plan that accommodates landscape-level biodiversity requirements without further exclusions from the timber harvesting land base. Nevertheless, the distribution of representative area, not just the amount of area, is critical to the achievement of landscape-level biodiversity. Until landscape-level planning is undertaken, the possible timber supply implications cannot be assessed with any certainty; therefore, I will make no adjustments to account for landscape-level biodiversity at this time. However, it is important that a plan be available for examination at the next determination.

- cutblock adjacency

In order to protect non-timber resources such as wildlife, water quality and aesthetics, current harvesting practices limit the size and shape of cutblocks and prescribe a minimum "green-up" height for regenerating stands before adjacent cutblocks can be harvested. This provides for a distribution of harvested areas and retained forest cover across the landscape, which helps to meet several forest management objectives. Cutblock adjacency guidelines are commonly expressed in terms of the number of harvesting entries, or "passes," required to harvest the entire area of the timber harvesting land base.

In the analysis, it was assumed that no more than 25 percent of the timber harvesting land base in the integrated resource management zone can be younger than 12 years of age at any time. This forest cover requirement approximates a four-pass harvesting system. I note that this requirement is more constraining than those used in some other coastal management units; however, I note that this is the licensee's best approximation of current management in the TFL. Furthermore, BCFS staff indicate that the adjacency assumption used in the analysis does not restrict timber supply in the base case. I accept that the assumption made in the analysis regarding adjacency is reasonable for use in this determination.

- visually sensitive areas

Forest resources managed by the BCFS include recreation resources. "Recreation resource" is defined in the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act to include "scenic or wilderness features or settings that have recreational significance or value". In order to manage such scenic features, visual landscape foresters in B.C., in collaboration with specialists in other parts of the world, have developed procedures for identifying and managing "visually sensitive areas". These procedures incorporate both biophysical and social factors—including visual sensitivity ratings based on topography, slope and other biophysical factors, and social factors such as numbers of viewers and their perceptions—and provide recommended visual quality objectives (VQOs) for visually sensitive areas. These objectives limit the amount of visible disturbance that is acceptable in such areas.

Three zones with different visual quality objectives, covering approximately 33 percent of the timber harvesting land base, were identified for the analysis. For the retention visual quality zone, a maximum of 2 percent of the timber harvesting land base could be covered by stands younger than 16 years of age (the green-up age) at any time. For the partial retention visual quality zone, a maximum of 10 percent of the timber harvesting land base could be covered by stands younger than the green-up age. For the modification visual quality zone, a maximum of 25 percent of the land base could be covered by stands younger than the green-up age. The maximum allowable percentages were determined using "Procedures for Factoring Recreation Resources into Timber Supply Analyses". The green-up ages have been estimated using the results of a 34-cutblock survey for green-up height and site index tables. These forest cover requirements have been accepted by BCFS regional and district staff.

Sensitivity analysis was provided, showing the timber supply impacts of adjusting green-up ages by two years for all management zones. This analysis showed that if green-up ages are increased by 2 years, there is no change from the base case in the short and medium term; however, the harvest level rises 2 decades later to a lower long-term harvest level than in the base case. If green-up ages are decreased by 2 years, the short-term harvest level can be maintained for an additional decade and long-term timber supply is increased slightly.

Another sensitivity analysis shows the impact on timber supply of increasing and decreasing the maximum allowable disturbance percentages for all visual quality management zones to the highest and lowest percent disturbance allowed for each visual quality objective. In addition, when allowable disturbance percentages were increased for the sensitivity analysis, it was assumed that areas in the integrated resource management zone would be harvested under a 3-pass harvesting system, allowing 33 percent of the timber harvesting land base to be younger than green-up age. If the allowable disturbance is increased in all management zones, the initial harvest level projected in the base case can be maintained for 4 decades before declining to a long-term harvest level 10 000 cubic metres higher than in the base case. The Timberline analyst indicates that even though the forest cover requirements in the IRM zone have also been made less restrictive in this sensitivity analysis, most of the timber supply impacts illustrated in these sensitivity analyses result from changes to the requirements applied to the visual quality management zones. If the allowable disturbance level is decreased in all management zones, the initial harvest level must be reduced immediately to 159 400 cubic metres per year—a decrease of almost 28 percent from the base case initial harvest level—to avoid severe disruptions in timber supply in the future, and the long-term harvest level is decreased by 14 000 cubic metres per year from that of the base case.

I note that the licensee has committed to greater use of partial cutting harvesting systems in the TFL. The use of these silviculture systems in visually sensitive areas would likely allow for harvesting of more volume in these areas than might otherwise be expected. In addition, it is evident that small changes in the forest cover requirements applied to visually sensitive areas have a significant impact on timber availability, and that large increases in timber supply can be gained in the medium term if requirements for visual quality are moderately reduced. I have taken guidance from the Minister's memorandum (see Appendix 4) expressing the provincial socio-economic objective of ensuring an appropriate balance between protecting visual resources and minimizing the impact of such measures on timber supply, particularly given the environmental protection measures included in the Forest Practices Code. Considering the above, I conclude that the opportunity to decrease visual management constraints on timber supply represents an unquantified upward pressure, and have taken this into account in my determination, as discussed below under "Reasons for Decision".

- areas of cultural or archaeological significance

First Nations involvement was solicited for MP No. 3; however, there were no respondents. In MP No. 3, Interfor has committed to respecting First Nations interests in those resource use activities undertaken in traditional territory, seeking First Nations involvement in economic development opportunities, and ensuring the protection of culturally or archaeologically significant sites. No evidence was presented to suggest the presence of culturally or archaeologically significant sites in the TFL. However, the licensee submits that the impacts of any such sites will have been accounted for in the timber supply analysis through reductions for sensitive recreation sites. I cannot be certain that recreation sites will overlap completely with possible cultural or archaeological values, but I am satisfied that reasonable efforts have been taken to solicit information, and will be taken in future planning and operations to account for such values.

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