Published on February 19, 2014
STEWARDSHIP OF SIDNEY ISLAND’S FOREST A Management Plan Prepared by Peter H. Pearse, R.P.F. (ret) for the Ecological Stewardship Committee SALLAS FOREST STRATA CORPORATION January 2013
Contents Page A Stewardship Plan for Sallas Forest 1 Objectives 1 The Forest 2 The Main Forest Types 6 Special Purpose Forest Types 10 Management Priorities 13 Other Components of the Plan 19 Financial Implications 22 Beyond 2017 22 Annex: Stewardship of Sidney Island’s Natural Resources: Objectives and Guidelines
STEWARDSHIP OF SIDNEY ISLAND’S FOREST A Management Plan A Stewardship Plan for Sallas Forest Sidney Island’s landscape is dominated by forest. This impressive forest, varying from oak meadows to deep coastal timber, contributes a great deal to the island’s unique appeal. Sallas Forest Strata Corporation is committed to managing its forest and other natural resources with a view toward protecting and sustaining them and the natural ecosystems they support. Because forests take a long time to grow, forest management calls for long-term planning. In the case of Sallas Forest, where forest management is delegated to a committee, explicit plans are also needed to keep the strata council and owners informed and engaged, and to facilitate financial planning and accountability. This document presents a forest stewardship plan for the next five years, 2013 to 2018, designed to advance the strata corporation’s broad, long-term objectives for the island’s environment and natural resources. Objectives A coherent management plan must be based on clear objectives. In the present case, the objectives and priorities to be adopted are clearly specified in Stewardship of Sidney Island’s Natural Resources: Objectives and Guidelines, a document approved for this purpose by the strata council in September 2011. This document elaborates on specifications in the strata corporation’s Statutory Building Scheme, which is binding on all owners, and makes it clear that the primary objective is to protect and maintain the island’s forest and ecosystems in their natural, healthy condition. Also to be considered in managing resources are aesthetic and recreational values and the privacy of owners. 1
The Objectives and Guidelines document refers to several other objectives relevant to forest management, including development of the “park-like” character of forest and meadows and their accessibility for the enjoyment of owners, restoration of disturbed landscapes and protection of rare and endangered species. And, with the important caveat that resources are not to be exploited primarily for financial gain, the guidelines prescribe that when resource products such as venison and timber are harvested or removed for other management purposes, any commercial value they may have should be recovered through sale to owners or others. These stewardship objectives and guidelines are attached as an Annex to this report. They provide the framework for the forest stewardship plan described in the following pages. But it is important to note that forest management plans must respond to other constraints as well, such as the myriad laws and regulations of governments that bear on activities on Sidney Island, the strata corporation’s Statutory Building Scheme and its limited financial resources. This forest management plan is unusual in two respects; one is that its objectives, noted above, are different and more complicated than those of most private and governmental forest owners who are primarily concerned with commercial forest production. The second is that it is written for readers, especially owners of the strata corporation, who need clear information about proposed silvicultural activities and their implications without the usual arcane terminology and presumptions of foresters and ecologists. This has required simplification of information about the forest itself and more explanation of forest management techniques. The Forest The forest, as this term is used here, is the strata corporation’s common property not devoted to other purposes, but it includes some open bluffs and meadows. As Figure 1 shows, it occupies 472 hectares, two-thirds of Sallas Forest land, and an area larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Some special features of this forest provide context for the proposed plan. Sidney Island is in the heart of the coastal Douglas fir zone, and this impressive species dominates the island’s forest. In much lesser abundance other species common in coastal forests 2
are mixed with the Douglas fir, notably the coniferous western red cedar and grand (or balsam) fir, and the deciduous red alder and bigleaf maple. In addition to these, the island’s forest supports a remarkable variety of relatively rare species such as the picturesque arbutus, Garry oak, Pacific dogwood and western yew. Still others, such as black cottonwood and trembling aspen, are unusual on the Gulf Islands. This range of tree species, coupled with the island’s diversity of other vegetation, topography and wildlife, gives the forest its special interest and attraction. [For excellent illustrations and descriptions of all these species, see Tree Book Index Ministry of Forests.] The present forest has been shaped by two broad influences. One is the island’s natural growing conditions – its geological foundation, climate and fertility, which determine the natural composition of species in the forest. The other is the history of forest disturbance. In its preEuropean settlement wilderness, the Douglas fir forest depended for its regeneration on intermittent forest fire to clear away the forest canopy and stimulate regeneration of a new forest, resulting in forest stands in which the trees over broad areas were all more or less the same age. Over the last century, clear-cut logging had a similar effect. And over the last three decades, artificial reforestation, thinning, fertilization and other silvicultural activities have significantly influenced the structure of the present forest. Over the past century, almost all the forest has been disturbed by logging, most of which occurred in three episodes: the first, during World War I, removed some of the huge original oldgrowth Douglas fir and cedar trees; the second, shortly after World War II, removed most of the remaining old growth; the third, in the 1980s, removed much of the then 60- to 70-year-old second growth that had established itself where the first phase of logging had taken place. For the most part, the areas logged were quickly reforested naturally or through planting, so that much of the present forest consists of even-aged stands of an age dating from one of these three episodes. For decades the forest has suffered from the depredations of fallow deer, introduced to the island early in the last century. Apart from the resulting disruption of the whole forest ecosystem, the overpopulation of deer made reforestation difficult, expensive and often unsuccessful. Over the 3
last four years, impressive progress has been made in reducing and controlling the deer population, with significant benefits in lower cost and higher success of reforestation efforts. The major threat to the forest is fire. The strata corporation supplements the provincial government’s fire suppression program and facilities with its own fire regulations, equipment and voluntary Fire Team. A variety of pests also affect the forest, most conspicuously an insect that defoliates mature balsam trees, a fungus that infects and kills arbutus trees, and another that attacks the roots of Douglas fir, resulting in patches of dead or dying trees of that species. But these are normal in the forests of this region, and are minor threats to the island ecosystem compared to the formerly hyperabundant fallow deer. Today, the forest is generally healthy, and thanks to the natural fertility of the land and an aggressive reforestation program over the last couple of decades, it is, in large part, growing vigorously. It will help in understanding later discussion in this document to be more specific about this growth. Foresters measure wood in cubic metres (a cubic metre being roughly the amount of wood contained in a typical utility pole). Our data indicate that the forest is currently adding biomass in the form of wood at an average rate of at least five cubic metres per hectare per year, or a total of some 2,360 cubic metres annually. Sidney Island’s forest is best understood as an ecosystem in the long, slow process of restoration following removal of the original old growth – the stands of differing ages marching through the age classes from seedlings to maturing forest – a process hastened in recent decades by reforestation, other silvicultural measures and aggressive control of the deer population. The management plan presented here is intended to further advance the process of restoration of the forest ecosystem and its environmental and other benefits to Sallas Forest owners. 4
Figure 1. Sallas Forest Land Use More specifically, our Objectives and Guidelines imply that the forest should be managed to promote the forest’s growth and vigour, its biodiversity and its aesthetic and recreational values. Aesthetic quality, being a matter of individual taste, is particularly difficult to define and measure, but studies show that people generally appreciate old and big trees more than young and small ones, relatively open groves more than dense stands, and variety more than homogeneity – preferences that are commonly reflected in parks and are assumed to apply here. 5
The Main Forest Types Forest planning depends critically on data about the forest itself – the species composition, age, density, rate of growth and other characteristics of the forest cover. Our information about the forest is based mainly on an inventory undertaken in 1998 by a forestry consulting firm retained by the strata corporation’s predecessor, Sallas Forest Limited Partnership. In important respects these data are now out of date, but with extrapolations, information gleaned from other sources, adjustments based on personal knowledge and tolerance for margins of error, it provides an adequate base of information for present purposes. For practical management planning, it is helpful to divide the forest into categories, each of which calls for a distinctive management prescription. To meet Sallas Forest’s criteria for management, the categories identified here have been selected according to two considerations. One is the characteristics of the forest itself. Because the Douglas fir forest usually grows in even-aged stands, and the age of stands determines the kind of silvicultural measures they need, the forest has been classified into forest types defined by the age of the trees. The second consideration is the strata corporation’s particular management objectives in different parts of its property. Since forests can be managed for a variety of purposes, and the strata corporation’s purposes and priorities differ in different parts of the island, this must also be considered in designing the overall management regime. Thus the forest has been classified into 10 Forest Types, based on the age of the trees and the strata corporation’s varying objectives and priorities, which together largely determine the appropriate management regime for each. These forest types, described below, are shown on the colour-coded map in Figure 2. This map can be viewed at higher resolution and with more detail on the Sidney Island website (Map of Sidney Island’s Forest Cover and Inventory). 6
Naturally Open Areas The common property contains some 44 hectares of Naturally Open Areas in the form of rocky knolls, meadows and wetlands, coloured yellow in Figure 2. These areas lack a continuous forest cover (though they may contain scattered trees and shrubs). Apart from the use of some meadows in deer operations, the objective in managing these areas is to preserve them in their natural condition and to protect their aesthetic and recreational qualities. New Forest New Forest refers to forest land on which the forest has been removed or disturbed, the new plantation is less than 10 years old, and reforestation remains either inadequate or in need of maintenance. As a result of past reforestation efforts, the area that still requires planting has been substantially reduced to less than two hectares. This, and another 29 hectares planted recently (very pale green in Figure 2), requires continuing protection from deer for a few more years. The management objective for these areas is to bring them to a reforested, freegrowing stage as soon as is practicable. Juvenile Forest Juvenile Forest, light green in Figure 2, consists of stands between 10 and 35 years old, covering 210 hectares, more than any other forest type. The juvenile phase of a forest is the period in which silvicultural measures are most effective in shaping the future forest and maintaining its growth and vigour. The most important of these measures for present planning purposes are “spacing,” the removal of superfluous, smaller trees that inhibit the growth of the ultimate stand; and “pruning,” the removal of lower, usually dead branches that impair aesthetic and recreational values and create a fire hazard. The small trees removed in spacing operations have no commercial value, but are left on the forest floor to decay and contribute nutrients to the remaining trees. 7
Mid-aged Forest Stands between 35 and 50 years old, referred to as Mid-aged Forest, cover 31 hectares, coloured middle green in Figure 2. This age bracket is a period of rapid growth and development of the forest. Maturing Forest Maturing Forest, occupying 156 hectares of Sallas Forest (coloured dark green in Figure 2), is composed of trees more than 50 years old. At this age, stands can be thinned to the density desired for the mature forest. In Sallas Forest, where the stands now more than 50 years old were spaced, pruned and fertilized in their juvenile phase, thinnings usually have commercial value and can be recovered and sold. 8
Figure 2. Forest Types in Sallas Forest Note: This map is available at higher resolution at www.sidneyisland.ca (Map of Sidney Island’s Forest Cover and Inventory) 9
Special Purpose Forest Types The remaining forest types refer to parts of the common-property forest which must be managed to respond to special priorities in particular areas. Conservancies Conservancies occupy 55 hectares of the common property, mostly around the southeast end of the island, coloured buff in Figure 2. The covenants over these areas, held by the Islands Trust, restrict the strata corporation’s activities on these lands and define the management objective as conservation. Thus the strata corporation’s management activity is reduced to protecting these areas from disturbance. Roadsides Roadsides here refer to forest land on common property within 10 metres of the edge of main or graveled roads. Roadsides must be managed with particular attention to three objectives. First, they must contribute to the safety of vehicular traffic by removal of physical obstructions and maintenance of sightlines. Second, since most forest fires start on or near roads, roadsides must be managed to minimize fire hazard. Third, because the roadways are so important to the island’s general appearance, roadsides must be managed with special attention to their aesthetic qualities. Fortuitously, these three priorities call for complementary management prescriptions; removal of obstructive trees, wide spacing, pruning and grooming of trees, and removal of debris. About 30 hectares fall within these roadsides on common property. Firebreak The strata corporation’s Fire Team has initiated construction of a firebreak, 10 to 15 metres wide, along the south side of Sallas Lane and extending across the island from Hamley Point to the southwest shore. Within this strip the brush, debris, surface duff and some trees have been removed, which, combined with the 10
adjacent road, forms a barrier to the spread of wildfire from the high-risk southern part of the island. This Firebreak, which occupies more than two hectares, is yet to be completed and trees within it must be spaced and pruned. Residential Adjacencies Residential Adjacencies refers to common-property forest within 10 metres of residential lots, which amounts to some six hectares. Because of the implications for the owners’ privacy and the forest’s effect on the aesthetic quality of their residential environment, adjacent forest areas must be managed with a view toward protecting these values, which usually implies maintaining a relatively dense and vigorous screen of forest where that is feasible. Disturbed Landscapes Disturbed Landscapes are areas where the forest has been removed and the surface of the land has been disturbed, as in the case of gravel pits and quarries, which occupy nearly four hectares. The management objective is to restore these areas when they are no longer used, which often calls for some landscaping as well as reforestation. Table 1 provides a summary of these Forest Types, their characteristics and management requirements. The 10 types are, of course, a simplification of the full variety of forest conditions in Sallas Forest, because every hectare differs. But they serve to aggregate and distinguish the parts of the forest that call for particular management measures referred to in Table 1 and discussed further below. 11
Table 1. Forest Types and their management priorities Management Priorities Management Techniques Area (ha) Forest Type Characteristics Naturally open areas Meadows, knolls, wetlands Conservation, aesthetics, wildlife management Primarily protection 44.5 New forest Inadequately stocked forest and plantations less than 10 years old Reforestation Planting and plantation maintenance 31.1 Juvenile forest Plantations 10 to 35 years old Stand composition, growth & development Tree spacing and pruning Mid-aged forest Stands between 35 and 50 years old Forest health, diversity, aesthetics General forest maintenance Maturing forest Stands more than 50 years old Biodiversity, aesthetics Thinning, fire hazard control and promotion of old-growth characteristics Main Forest Types Total Main Forest Types 209.9 30.7 155.7 471.9 Special Purpose Forest Types Conservancies Management constrained by covenants Conservation Protection 55.4 Roadsides Vegetation within 10 m of roads Traffic safety, aesthetics, fire control Vegetation & debris removal and tree grooming 30.2a Firebreak Forest bordering road serving as firebreak Fire-hazard abatement Spacing & pruning of trees and debris removal 2.4a Residential adjacencies Forest within 10 m of residential lots Privacy, aesthetics Maintenance of robust forest 5.7a Disturbed landscapes Gravel pits, quarry Restoration Surface landscaping and reforestation 3.7 Total Special Purpose Forest Types 97.4 Non-forested Areas Water and wetland Ponds and wetland 2.6 Roads and other Road surfaces, parking lots, air strip and hunter’s cabin 27.6 Total Non-forested Areas Total Common Property a This area is included in the area of Main Forest Types above 12 30.2 561.1
In addition to the above forest types, Table 1 shows, for completeness in accounting for land use, two categories of Non-forested Land shown on the accompanying map, Water and wetland and Roads and other. These are not managed forest and are not considered further in the following discussion, but together they amount to about 30 hectares that, when added to the forest types described above, account for all of the 561 hectares of common property. With these exclusions, the forest management plan applies to the strata corporation’s common property, the management of which is the responsibility of the corporation itself through the strata council. Also excluded from discussion, and from Table 1, are the 154 hectares of private residential lots around the perimeter of the island, which completes the 715-hectare total of all Sallas Forest land. It is important to note that although the management measures differ among forest types, they are designed to contribute, in aggregate, to the overall priority of protecting the forest ecosystem, and secondarily to the corporation’s other stated objectives. Management Priorities The general objective of this five-year plan is to complete the reforestation of areas that have yet to be reforested and to set all the young stands on a trajectory of healthy growth and development. Refinements to this general plan, and additional considerations that call for special measures in particular parts of the forest, are postponed for future plans. These objectives call for three priorities for the present management plan, as follows. 1. Completion of Reforestation The first priority is the New Forest, where reforestation remains incomplete. This deserves attention not only to restore the forest cover but also to do so before competing vegetation increases the work and cost of doing so. 13
Consistent with the management priorities outlined above, reforestation should be confined to areas from which the forest has been removed through logging in years past, not naturally open areas. The report of the Resource Management Committee to the 2012 annual meeting of the strata corporation indicated that this inadequately reforested land is now reduced to less than two hectares, which can be planted and protected in one spring planting program. Accordingly, the present plan proposes completion of the remaining inadequately reforested areas in the first fiscal year, i.e. 2013-14. This, and another 29 hectares of recently planted areas, requires maintenance and protection from deer for several years, but this requirement will taper off as the young trees grow beyond the stage at which they are vulnerable to deer and their browse protectors can be removed. 2. Spacing Juvenile Stands Discussions of forest management, including this one, often refer to increasing or reducing the density of trees (the number of trees per hectare, or tree spacing) through planting, spacing, thinning or harvesting. The purpose of planting is obvious, and the rationale for spacing and thinning is, basically, that as trees grow bigger, the forest can accommodate fewer of them. For example, a new plantation in a forest like ours is typically planted with 600 to 1,000 seedlings per hectare (depending on the species, topography and other local conditions). After a couple of decades, as a juvenile stand, the trees will grow and develop best with roughly half that number of trees. And by the time they are 50 years old, like our Maturing Forest, the best density is halved again. Old-growth forests contain even fewer trees per hectare. Spacing and thinning to enhance growth, and to concentrate growth on the trees that will constitute the mature stand, significantly hasten development of the forest, leading to an attractive park-like quality of bigger, well-spaced trees such as those in the upper photo of Figure 3. In the absence of spacing, the number of trees would diminish through competition; as the trees grow increasingly dense, their growth will slow and the dominant ones will suppress the others, which then gradually die and fall. But this process takes much longer – a century or more. And, significantly for Sallas Forest, this alternative does little to bolster the forest’s health and vigour, 14
its aesthetic and recreational values, or its park-like character. Moreover, the accumulation of dead trees, dry lower branches and debris in untreated stands leaves them much more vulnerable to fire. In some circumstances, even in areas reforested by planting, natural seeding following fire or logging produces a prolific growth of seedlings that can stagnate growth of the young stand. Some such areas in Sallas Forest are already so dense and entangled that they are almost impenetrable and should be spaced without further delay. Apart from the adverse effect of such congested stands on the forest’s growth, the longer such spacing is postponed, the more work and cost it will entail. The two photos in Figure 3 illustrate the effect of spacing and pruning. Both were taken on Sallas Forest lands in forest of similar age and origin. The stand in the upper photo, now part of the Maturing Forest, was spaced and pruned as a juvenile stand in the 1980s; that in the lower photo received no treatment. Note the difference in aesthetic and recreational quality, the size and vigour of the trees, the diversity of vegetation, light penetration and vulnerability to fire. Because spacing and pruning are so effective in enhancing the forest’s growth, biodiversity, aesthetic quality and resistance to fire, they deserve high priority for Sallas Forest. And because so much of Sallas Forest is in its juvenile phase of development when these treatments are most effective, the provisions for them in the present plan must be substantial. 15
Figure 3. The Benefits of Spacing and Pruning. The two photos above were taken in the same Maturing Forest type and the trees are of similar age. The stand in the upper photo was spaced and pruned in its juvenile stage; the stand in the lower photo was not. 16
Both spacing and pruning are labour intensive and costly, and are best programmed over a number of years. They can be carried out simultaneously or sequentially with spacing first. This plan proposes spacing all the Juvenile Forest, to the extent that this treatment is needed, over the five years of this plan, dealing with the oldest and densest stands first, leaving pruning for the following years. 3. Thinning The healthy and attractive stands of advanced second growth in the Maturing Forest, shown in the upper photo in Figure 1, demonstrate the benefits of the spacing and pruning they received in their juvenile phase in the 1980s. Since then, the trees have grown considerably, closed in, and in some areas require thinning again to maintain their growth and development. The trees in the upper photo in Figure 3 are well spaced, but much of the Maturing Forest contains twice or even three times this density of trees. For example, the largest stand of overstocked Maturing Forest, surrounding Spar Tree Hill, was spaced to about 600 trees per hectare about 25 years ago. They have grown vigorously since then, and at their present age and size, this density is more than double the number of trees that would enable them to maintain maximum growth and vigour. As the forest becomes increasingly overcrowded, the growth of trees and other vegetation slows and the biodiversity of the ecosystem narrows. In order to realize the potential growth and development of the forest, and the additional aesthetic and firehazard control benefits of thinning, the plan proposes thinning a portion of the most overstocked stands. However, the special circumstances of Sallas Forest suggest that thinning operations should be modest in scale and should proceed gradually to minimize visual impacts on the forest and disturbance to other island activities. Accordingly, to begin, thinning should be planned to remove no more than 20 per cent of the trees in any area and the total removed should not exceed 500 cubic metres, sufficient to confirm satisfactory arrangements for on-island operations, contractors and sales. 17
The extent of overstocking in these stands suggests that the forest would benefit from larger removals in future, but the present plan proposes a constant level over the five years of this plan. To put these proposed thinnings in perspective, the forest is growing by at least 2,360 cubic metres per year, as noted earlier, which is nearly five times the proposed thinning of 500 cubic metres. Consistent with our guidelines, we should take advantage of opportunities to recover any commercial value of trees removed through sale to owners or others, and such opportunities appear likely. However, past experience has revealed some sensitivity among owners about the recovery and sale of logs from thinning, and these apprehensions must be considered in planning new operations. In 2005 the strata council approved a proposal from the former Resource Management Committee to carry out modest thinning operations of the kind proposed here and to salvage and sell any commercially valuable logs that may be recovered. The trees to be removed were marked and owners were invited to inspect them. The area shown in the upper photo in Figure 3 was posted as a demonstration plot to illustrate the effect of the proposed thinning, and it met with general approval among owners who inspected it. Several owners nevertheless expressed concern that too many trees might be removed at once, so the trees were re-marked and the numbers reduced. Our most recent thinning projects were in 2006, in which the trees removed were sold to an owner and milled for house construction on the island, and in 2009 when they were shipped to Vancouver Island and sold for manufacture into poles. Both were intended to demonstrate the effects of such operations on the forest. The projects proceeded smoothly, yielding worthwhile revenue as well as the desired silvicultural benefits, and there was no reported criticism of the results. The experience demonstrated the importance of advance information and discussion with owners. Of course, a project of this kind should be subject to the strata council’s approval of a detailed financial prospectus, and opportunities to sell thinnings will remain uncertain until a buyer is 18
secured among owners or elsewhere, which should be explored at least nine months in advance of any expected operation. It may be appropriate to deposit any revenues from sales of thinnings in a reserve account for further forest improvement, in keeping with the spirit of the guideline against utilizing the forest for general financial gain and giving the organizers some flexibility in shifting forestry work and spending among years. Other Components of the Plan A variety of other matters should be incorporated into the forest management plan. Most of these do not, at this stage, call for special projects, but rather need consideration in carrying out the activities described above. Enhancement of Biodiversity While Sidney Island’s forest supports a considerable variety of tree species, biodiversity of the forest ecosystem has suffered from past disturbances and excessive populations of exotic deer. However, the biodiversity of such an ecosystem, an important indicator of its robustness and a determinant of its aesthetic quality, can be restored through appropriate silviculture, and this should be an explicit component of forest management plans. Most importantly, spacing and thinning of the kind described above allows light to penetrate the forest canopy and stimulates the growth of an understory of other species, especially shadetolerant cedar, balsam and a variety of shrubs. This process is evident on Sidney Island where roads have opened the forest canopy, promoting the development of an understory in the roadside forest (visible, for example, along the western side of Greenleaf Lane, south of the marina). Over time, this understory forms part of the forest canopy, and with the more abundant shrubbery, results in a more diverse forest ecosystem. In addition, spacing and thinning can be executed to favour species in low abundance by removing fewer of them and more of the abundant ones; a technique that can significantly broaden the species composition of the remaining stands. (Indeed the present predominance of Douglas fir was exacerbated by the effort of spacing crews in the 1980s, then concerned with 19
commercial forestry, to increase the proportion of this most valuable species.) And in the process of spacing and thinning, snags and dying trees that provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds and other animals can be preserved. A third technique to enhance diversity is to create modest open spaces in the forest, which not only diversifies the forest but also enriches the habitat for wildlife, especially songbirds. Strategically located open spaces can add significantly to the attraction of forest trails as well. Some such open spaces already exist. But it will become increasingly important to identify those that are to be maintained as permanent and where others should be created. Fire-hazard Abatement In addition to the strata corporation’s normal precautions and regulations to reduce the threat of fire, silvicultural operations must be conducted with attention to their particular implications for forest fire. For example, spacing, thinning and pruning normally reduce the risk of fire by separating the trees and removing the “ladder fuel” of dry lower branches that can carry ground fire into the forest canopy. But these operations produce ground debris that can temporarily elevate the fire hazard. In conducting these operations, it is therefore important to remove debris back from roads and trails and to ensure that it is flattened to the ground as much as is practicable to promote its rapid decay. A similar effect, on a much reduced time scale, occurs in the open meadows, where long summer grass presents a fire hazard, but cutting it and leaving it on the ground to dry is likely to temporarily aggravate its susceptibility to grassfire. Pest Control Special operations to control forest pests and disease of the kind noted above are not warranted, for the time being at least. However, in the extensive areas proposed for spacing, pruning and thinning, those operations should be designed to reduce pests to the extent practicable. Thus, when these activities encounter trees infected with contagious fungi or insects, they should be removed and properly disposed of. 20
Coordination The preceding discussion suggests other opportunities for beneficial coordination of functions and responsibilities. The spacing of trees in the firebreak, a responsibility of the Fire Team, can be dealt with in the course of thinning operations. The management of roadside forest overlaps the Conservator’s responsibility for maintaining the roads. The location of skidroads required in thinning may affect the trail system, and so on. These circumstances call for consultation among those concerned to resolve responsibilities for planning, operations and financing. While the division of responsibilities need not be complicated, it is important that it be clear, and the strata council should ensure that this coordination take place. Information Gathering As noted earlier, this plan is based on information about the forest that is obsolete in important respects. Particularly worrisome is the inadequacy of information to identify remedial measures needed, if any, in areas listed in the 1998 inventory as having only sparse numbers of trees. In addition, while the remaining need for reforestation appears modest, closer examination of the forest in the course of other work may reveal more areas that need supplementary planting. During the next five years, this resource information should be brought up to date. In addition, building on collaborative arrangements with members of UBC’s Faculty of Forestry initiated in the course of preparing this plan, the strata corporation should sponsor the design of a dynamic model of Sidney Island’s forest that would enable precise long-term planning in a format readily accessible and understandable to owners as well as to those responsible for management. Participation Casual observation suggests that management of the forest is a matter of considerable interest to owners, but they are nevertheless often uncertain and sometimes anxious about management 21
activities. Henceforth, greater effort should be made to inform owners about the state of the forest, the management choices available and rationales of management plans. In addition, opportunities for owners and their families to actively participate in forest management activities, and their interest and feasibility in doing so, should be explored. Financial Estimates Sidney Island raises unique circumstances for forestry contractors, ranging from complications of transportation and accommodation to the availability of tools, equipment and services, all of which complicate estimation of the cost of the management activities proposed in this plan. However, reliable estimates of costs can be obtained from contractors once the scope of work is decided and approved. With present information, only a rough indication of the costs of the proposed management activities is possible but, with this caveat, an estimate of the order of magnitude of the costs might nevertheless be helpful. Thus, if the silvicultural and other forest management activities were spread evenly over the next five years, the cost would be in the order of $40,000 per year. If the thinnings were recovered and sold to owners on the island or to commercial buyers under typical market conditions, the net cost would be lowered by roughly one-third to half of that amount. Beyond 2017 The activities described above are intended to advance, as efficiently as possible over the next five years, the strata corporation’s objectives for the stewardship of its Sidney Island forest. It is important to recognize, of course, that this is only a step in an expected continuum of forest management into the indefinite future. It is reasonable to assume that the corporation’s objectives for the forest will continue beyond 2018, but by then the condition of the forest will be predictably different as a result of its growth 22
and the measures taken under this plan. The program proposed here, for the next five years, is basically one of completing the re-establishment of the forest cover over the same area as that occupied by the natural forest in the past, and with the same species as those that occurred naturally. Further, it is designed to set the whole forest on a path of healthy growth and diversification, consistent with the established objectives of the strata corporation. It must be acknowledged that it is an ambitious plan, based on an understanding that the strata corporation seeks a more active forest management program. While it implies a considerable responsibility for the Ecological Stewardship Committee in organizing, supervising and coordinating the program of work, the proposed activities, spread over five years, should be manageable. The next plan, for the years beginning in 2018, should include a program of pruning the juvenile stands, as noted above, but beyond that it should shift attention to planning the development of more particular attributes of the forest. In contrast with the present plan, future planning should go beyond the usual silvicultural activities for maintaining the forest’s general health and development to more specific plans for particular parts of the forest, such as the location of open spaces, and identification of areas that need supplemental planting or rehabilitation. Attention should be directed as well to strategic issues such as the protection of endangered species, the control or eradication of exotic plants and animals, the enhancement of rare and attractive trees such as oak and arbutus, and improvement of access to the forest and its aesthetic qualities. The more accurate and sophisticated data, mapping and modelling techniques contemplated in the present plan will facilitate this more detailed planning. 23
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