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The Destruction of The Cowichan Valley Demonstration Forest And the 'Sequential Thinning Strategy' Operational Research Site PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Wednesday, 29 June 2005 16:34

Michael Copland,    June 27, 2005

The Cowichan Valley Demonstration Forest (CVDF) is located along the Cowichan Valley Highway (Hwy 18) and around Lake Cowichan (see photo). It has been in existence for approximately 20 years but Jim Snetsinger, Chief Forester for the BC Ministry of Forests (MoF), has stated recently in a letter that it 'is not official'. As defined on the existing sign on the highway, its purpose is: '…to provide a demonstration forest as an outdoor classroom of forest management practices and to foster respect, understanding and appreciation of the forest resource.'

A wide variety of forest management activities have been conducted in the CVDF with substantial investment of public funds including partial cutting silvicultural systems, commercial thinning, root rot management, wildlife tree management, plantation silviculture and interpretive sites and trails.

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In 1999, I submitted an initial proposal on an alternative forest management strategy to my employer, the MoF. In October of 2000, I was granted written approval to design the site and completed the work, investing $ 25,000 of public funds in surveying, mapping, data collection and compilation in addition to staff time and resources. Subsequent to my completion of the engineering of the site, I requested permission to publish the completed paper. This request was denied and the agency claimed full ownership of everything that I had written or would write on forestry. The MoF became an abusive employer, which included making statements such as: 'your job is to do what you are told and not propose forest management strategies'. As a result, I resigned my position with full severance in August of 2001 due to a 'personality conflict' with the ministry. A condition of this resignation was that the MoF would transfer the site and a sustainable research forest of approximately 1200 hectares to a post-secondary educational institution, if requested. The Forestry Program staff at Malaspina University-College (MUC) was very interested in the proposal and obtained confirmation and agreement from the MoF. Then David Drakeford, Dean of Science and Technology at MUC secretly cancelled the initiative because in his words, I had 'issues' with the MoF.

The 'Sequential Thinning Strategy' (STS) is basically a defined stand density management strategy designed to create or maintain old growth habitat and biological diversity characteristics of natural coastal forests through a series of thinnings/selective cuttings to create a complex multi-age and multi-species stand structure. The central hypothesis is that this will result in a long-term improvement in both ecological and economic (timber volume and value yields and return on investment) sustainability as compared to current short rotation (30-50 year) clearcut/variable retention practices. As well, a computer growth and yield system was created to mathematically support the volume yield hypothesis and estimate future growth and yield of real stands. The ecological component of the strategy was written in collaboration with the David Suzuki Foundation. A summary version of the paper has been published in the 'Ecoforestry Journal' and is available at www.ecoforestry.ca.

Currently, the site has been transferred into an 'undeveloped' Timber Sale held by WJM Mfg. Ltd (associated with Pacific Builders) and has been re-engineered by their contractor, Hayes Forest Service as a variable retention (clearcut) cutblock who will be doing the logging. A cutting permit to destroy the site has been signed by Ken Matthews, BC Timber Sales Manager. This action constitutes administrative misconduct as the site had been fully developed with substantial funds invested in it. To transfer it into a previously awarded licence does not maximize the potential stumpage revenue for the site.

This current action is the second re-engineering of what was originally the most carefully planned and measured operational research site in existence. In 2001, before the agreement to transfer the research forest to an academic institution had expired, the Timber Sales program had attempted to re-engineer the block and pulled out when it received complaints of misconduct. The Timber Sale Program has responded that it 'must operate similar to industry'. Clearly, neither the Timber Sales program nor the forest industry has any interest beyond clearcutting and short rotation (30-50 year) silviculture.

While the original design and experimental data has been corrupted, it is still salvageable if the public demands that the site and an operational research and demonstration forest be protected and transferred to an organization that has the expertise and the intent of studying of forest management activities.

The purpose of science in our civilization is to challenge through hypotheses and test the hypotheses through controlled experimentation. One must ask the question: what exactly does the Government of British Columbia or the BC Ministry of Forests have to gain by destroying the STS site? If it works, then they get to take credit for it but if it fails, then they can say they tried. Perhaps, what our forests need most is an honest effort from some knowledgeable and caring people who are entrusted with mandate of 'management, protection and conservation' of our forest resources? Are there any of these people left in our governmental and academic institutions?

Michael Copland has eleven years of experience as a Scientific and Technical Officer with The BC Ministry of Forests and is currently serving as a director of the Ecoforestry Institute Society, The Shawnigan Lake Watershed Watch and the British Columbia Environmental Network (contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 June 2005 16:34

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