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Chief Forester’s Standards for Seed Use Questions and Answers

Prepared November 24, 2004

  • General
  • Registration
  • Storage and testing
  • Selection
  • Transfer
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Q. What are the Chief Forester’s Standards for Seed Use?

A. These standards describe the requirements for using tree seed when reforesting Crown land in British Columbia. They include the requirements for registering, storing, selecting and transferring tree seed used to establish free growing stands under the Forest and Range Practice Act (FRPA).

Q. What is the purpose of these standards?

A. To maintain the identity, adaptability, diversity and productivity of the provinces tree gene resources. These standards ensure that seed can be tracked from its source to its planting site and that it is adapted to the environment in which it is planted.

Q. Under what authority did the chief forest establish these standards?

A. Section 169 of the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), section 43 of the Forest Planning and Practices Regulation, and section 32 of the Woodlot Licence Planning and Practices Regulation.

Q. When do the standards come into effect?

A. April 1, 2005

Q. Will training and additional information on the Standards be provided?

A. Yes. Dates and locations of training session and workshops to be offered in early 2005 will be posted by the end of the year. Additional information will also be made available.

Q. To whom do the standards apply?

A. Any person who plants trees or uses direct seeding methods to establish a free growing stand under FPRA and its regulations. Such persons include holders of a major licence, community forest agreement, and woodlot licence agreement issued under the Forest Act, BC Timber Sales managers, and those to whom reforestation obligations have been transferred under section 29 of FRPA. The registration standards also apply to persons who wish to register seed for use by those mentioned above.

Q. Do these standards apply to private forestland?

A. Only private forestland that is subject to FPRA, such as private land within a tree farm license and a woodlot licence. This is also the case for other requirements prescribed under FRPA.

Q. How are these standards different from the seed use requirements under the Forest Practice Code?

A. These standards represent an updated consolidation of the regulations, guidebooks and ministry policies that were in place under the Code. Registration and storage requirements have been clarified, and increased operational flexibility for seed selection and transfer has been added.

Q. Were stakeholder issues and concerns given due consideration in developing these standards?

A. Yes. These standards were developed in consultation with forest sector representatives over the past two years. Input was provided by licensees, Forest Genetics Council of BC, BC Tree Seed Dealers Association, and the Forest Nursery Association of BC.

Q. Why are the standards written in such legal terms and format?

A. The standards are part of FRPA’s legal framework. As such they have the weight and force of law. The standards have therefore been written in a manner consistent with other regulations and to provide for consistency in their interpretation and application.

Q. Why are these seed use requirements described as chief forester standards and not as regulations or guidelines?

A. The tree seed used to establish new forests has a significant influence on the health and productivity of those forests. Inappropriate use of seed can result in the reduced growth, increased susceptibility to insects, disease, frost or snow press, or the death of the trees. Collecting, identifying, storing and transferring seed requires a specialized knowledge of the biology and genetics of the tree species.

Detailed scientific and technical information is not usually found in regulation. Guidelines do not provide for a strong compliance and enforcement regime. Government therefore conferred responsibility to the chief forester, as the province’s pre-eminent forester and steward of Crown’s tree gene resources, to establish those standards that he deems necessary and appropriate to regulate the use of seed.

Q. Can one obtain a variance to the standards through a Forest Stewardship Plan?

A. No. Only the chief forester or his delegate can approve an alternative to standard if the proposed alternative is consistent with the intent of the standard. The chief forester has not delegated this authority to district managers, so alternatives to the standards cannot be approved through a Forest Stewardship Plan. More information about application and approval of alternatives will be provided prior the effective date of the standards.


Q. What kind of seed can be registered?

A. Seedlots and vegetative lots that meet the applicable collection criteria specified in the standards. These standards include minimum requirements for genetic diversity and physical quality. Suitable seed sources include natural stands in BC, identified tested and untested parent trees established in BC seed orchards, and several species and sources just south of the US border.

Q. What application form should I use to register seed?

A. The ministry is currently developing an on-line web-based registration. In the interim, you can use the seed registration forms (e.g. FS 721) that are available from the Tree Seed Centre.

Q. Where does the ministry store information about registered seedlots and vegetative lots?

A. The Seed Planning and Registry System an on-line web-based information system. A government-issued electronic identification is required to access this system and view lot data.

Q. What are "parent trees" and why must they be identified with the ministry prior to registering seedlot or vegetative lots collected from them?

A. A parent tree is a tree that has been selected in the wild or from a conventional tree breeding program for specific traits, such as improved growth and form or resistance to insects or disease. These parent trees are used to produce seed in a seed orchard, or vegetative material in a stoolbed. Knowledge of the origin and testing history of parent trees is critical for determining the collection criteria and transfer limits for lots produced from them.

Q. Why must a lot be collected from at least 10 trees or have a minimum effective population size of 10?

A. To ensure that lots contain sufficient genetic diversity so forests established with them are no more at risk from insects, disease, pests or climatic events than naturally regenerated stands.

Q. Can seed that has been genetically-modified be used for Crown land reforestation

A. No.

Storage and testing

Q. Why must seedlots be stored at the Ministry’ s Tree Seed Centre?

A. As stewards of the province’s tree gene resources, the ministry is the custodian of seed used for Crown land reforestation. Highly trained staff at this modern, well-equipped facility maintains the identify, accuracy and integrity of seedlot information. The Tree Seed Centre also performs testing and ensures optimum conditions for long-term seed storage. These activities coupled with registration serve as BC’s seed source certification program.


Q. How does one "select" seed?

A. By placing a request to withdraw seed from the ministry's Tree Seed Centre or vegetative material from a production facility, to grow trees that will be used to establish a free growing stand. These requests can be submitted in writing or through the Seed Planning and Registry System.

Q. What kind of lot must one select?

A. Any available lot that has a genetic worth (GW) of 5% or greater for a trait that meets the forest management objectives of the stand and is suitable for the site as determined by its transfer limits. The criteria for determining a lot’s availability are described in the standards.


Q. How are the transfer limits for lots collected from natural stands determined?

A. Through long-term seed source or provenance tests established and maintained by the ministry.

Q. Why are the elevation and latitude transfer limits for natural stand lots skewed higher and further north?

A. Research has demonstrated that seed sources perform better when moved higher in elevation and further north, than they do when moved down in elevation and further south. This phenomenon occurs because trees that are physiologically adapted to colder climates do not respond to more favourable growing conditions.

Q. How are the transfer limits for lots collected from tested parent trees determined?

A. The limits for a lot collected from tested parent trees (usually from a seed orchard) are based on the area(s) where the parent tree or its progeny have been tested or demonstrated to be adapted and perform well.

Q. What happens if a lot is planted outside its transfer limits?

A. The trees may grow at a slower rate or be more susceptible to insects, disease, and weather events, or even die. Generally, the greater the distance trees are moved beyond their transfer limits, the greater the risk.

Q. Can the transfer limits be exceeded for operational reasons?

A. The standards allow a licensee or BCTS manager to plant up to 5% of all the trees they plant outside their respective transfer limits on an annual basis – and without need of an approved alternative. For licensees, this provision applies to individual licenses. For BCTS managers, this provision applies to all timber sale licences within a single management unit (TFL or TSA). The latter provides BCTS managers with a similar level of operational flexibility as a major licensee.

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