Interior BC's Douglas fir forests struggling to regrow after logging

Reforestation falling short

An investigation by B.C.’s forests watchdog has found that many dry interior Douglas fir forests, including in the Thompson-Okanagan, are not growing back properly after being harvested. 

The Forest Practice Board audited 69 cut blocks logged between 2007 and 2017 in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, Cascades, Thompson Rivers and Okanagan-Shuswap natural resources districts. 

Forest Practice Board chair Kevin Kriese says that while industry is following legal requirements, 44 of 69 of the blocks audited were facing health issues. 

"These sites may not grow to healthy forests in the long term, and that has implications for future timber supply and other values, such as wildlife habitat,” Kriese said.

"There were a number of reasons for the poor regeneration success, including an over-reliance on clearcutting. In this ecosystem, uneven age forests are common and partial cutting systems should be more widely used to mimic natural disturbances and provide the shade and protection regenerating trees require.”

The study found that climate change is also introducing new challenges to forest-health in the province. With the increased prevalence of drought and fire, many of the sites examined are likely to shift to grassland, making long-term timber production unfeasible.

The investigation found systemic gaps in knowledge and experience required to successfully manage and reforest the complex sites. While best management practice guidelines are available, forest professionals and forest workers did not always follow them. 

While the provincial government has continually improved reforestation guidelines, compliance is just voluntary, something that is “likely not enough,” according to the FPB.

"The board recommends that government reassess the long-term reforestation objectives for these ecosystems, and update objectives and standards based on the likely consequences of climate change," Kriese said. "We also encourage training for forest professionals and workers operating in dry IDF ecosystems."

The IDF ecosystem covers about 5 per cent of the province, in the central Interior from the Kootenays through the Thompson-Okanagan and north to the Cariboo.

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