Questions to consider about forests

I have listed some questions we need to consider about our forests on their own and together (their interactions and cumulative effects) between our present forest and what were the condition of Lasqueti forests in 1850. I believe it is important to consider our goals for our forests, before we consider the ways we might reach our goals.

I will present a number of concepts that we should consider if we want to consider when thinking about our forests as a whole. I never expect everyone to agree about how to answer these questions. I found it interesting to compare my wife’s answers and my own, some were the same and others opposite. These questions are not presented in any special order or importance. I probably exhibit some bias with my questions, so I apologize if I do. I have left an open “?” at the end of each set of questions because I am sure there are other questions to ask that I missed. I think we need to reconsider our stewardship of our own lands and the “public unceded crown lands” in the face of long term wildfire risk in a fire prone landscape.

These questions do not even broach the political issues of us living on the island in the forest and the amount of modification we have done. (I believe we live in a forest, so we have all managed our forests in some way.)

Forests will continue to grow and infill as soon as we (as humans) stop affecting them. What do the heritage village First Nation sites look like today? What do early settler sites look like today? Or when any site ceases to be occupied?

A What is natural and/or what is a healthy forest? Are they different?
1. Were pre-settlement forest conditions natural or did they represent a healthy forest?
2. Is our present forest condition, if undisturbed, natural and is it healthy?
a. How do you vision our present forest conditions changing in the future?
3. Are our local old-growth patches natural or were they man-made?
4. What is your opinion about what condition is natural? Can you describe it?
5. What are your beliefs about forest succession for forest in the CDF zone?
6. Is fire a natural disturbance? What about other disturbances?
7. ?

B What is management?
1. Were First Nation practices management?
2. What do you consider is management?
3. Is no cutting of vegetation management?
4. Is no commercial logging a form of management?
5. What is active management as per the CDF Community Partnership (CDFCP) and is the CDFCP strategy needed?
“The Vision for Coastal Douglas-fir and Associated Ecosystems Conservation Partnership (CDFCP) is by 2045: Coastal Douglas-fir and associated ecosystems have ecological integrity and resilience to change. A system of core protected areas are actively managed to provide habitat for native species and places to learn about the importance of healthy ecosystems. Working landscapes are actively managed to enhance their ecosystem values, while also supporting jobs and economic development opportunities. The public and land managers understand that Coastal Douglas-fir and associated ecosystems are special places that merit support and investment.”
6. Is management good or is management bad?

C What is preservation? Is another type of management and/or preservation better? Who determines what is better?
1. Do Parks and covenants provide preservation?
2. Does the stopping of cutting of any vegetation provide preservation?
a. How does this policy interact with wildfire risk?
3. Should there be different types of preservation used locally?
4. Is restoration to pre-1850 conditions preservation?
5. Do our present covenants provide for preservation?
6. What about us as a community and moving forward? Has there been much change in our beliefs over the last 40 years?
7. Are the present conservation properties sustainable (over 250+ years) given our natural disturbance history?
8. What was our natural disturbance history?
9. Does active management for lowering wildfire risk change your idea of preservation?
10. ?

D Would you consider fires started by First Nation people to be natural? I believe more research might help us answer these questions & E.
1. I have found in BC articles opinions that, I interpret as, indicate that past native ignited fires are not natural disturbances?
a. I found this interpretation interesting do you agree with it?
b. Research cannot definitively separate native ignition from lightning ignition, so does ignition source matter.
2. How much fire was used by First nations locally?
3. Where was fire used?
4. What were the First Nation goals?
5. How many fires were started by lightning? What is the lightning risk on Lasqueti?
6. Do we need to consider other forest risks on Lasqueti: disease, pests, wind, and any other disturbances?
7. ?

E If the forests were burned by First Nation people, were these forest conditions sustainable?
1. Did the fires meet First Nation goals? How?
2. Do you think traditional First Nation fire management was sustainable?
3. I would be the first to state “it depends” but often the native use of fire degraded the forest timber value in the past or that was the belief in the early 1900’s. But these fires also helped create the large diameter trees. This use of fire also probably increased stream flow in summer by reducing density of tree and brush cover. It also allowed for less than full stocking during the regeneration period.
4. Are these goals still useful today?
5. What species benefited from that type of fire practice?
a. What about endangered species?
6. Did/do low severity fires make the forest more sustainable or more FireSmart?
7. Should fire be re-introduced on Lasqueti? How? Where? Under what conditions?
8. Are there other ways to obtain the same goals as re-introduced fire? Especially given our terrain?
9. ?

(It seems that one needs a goal to measure if a practice is sustainable. Whether it is a goal to return to traditional practice or a goal to manage for timber, each has a goal that we can then measure to see if it is sustainable. So do we need to figure out our goals before we can consider sustainability of a practice?)

F In what ways were low severity to mixed severity fire sustainable? Changing forest conditions change habitat values for many species. This is another area that I have not done much research on but understand more is needed. One of the things that has been raised in other areas is that there is a lack of young forest conditions. I noticed the high density of bird nests in my under 20 year old stands, was this an indication of limited regeneration on Lasqueti? Did low severity fires provide this habitat?
1. For timber?
2. For wildlife?
a. Which species?
b. Which species did frequent fires harm? Benefit?
c. ?
3. For plants?
a. Some plants and birds need young forest habitat? Butterflies?
b. Are we loosing losing young forests to closed canopy mid aged forests?
c. Do we need young stands of trees?
d. Which species need young forests?
e.
4. What about stream flow and ground water hydrology?
5. What is diversity? How do we want to add it into our thoughts about forests?
a. Within species?
b. Between species?
c. All species?
6. What other values do we want to sustain?
7. ?

G Does our present practice of urban/rural development provide any unique habitat value?
1. How diverse is our present forest?
2. Are we considering sustainability for other values and habitats that have been lost, besides older forest conditions?
3. ?

H What is sustainable when we link/consider/recognize wildfire’s role in the CDF zone?
1. After reading my blog CDF & fire do you agree with the 200 year period between fires as referenced in the 1995 Biodiversity Guidebook for BC for the CDF?
2. What do you think was probably the fire frequency on Lasqueti island? Since 1900 and before 1900?
3. What is the present fire risk to our community? Is it increasing?
4. Is Lasqueti a fire prone landscape?
5. Do we need a Community Wildfire Plan?
6. How could we change the present fire risk?
7. Is there wildfire risks to the old-growth trees we have remaining on the Island?

I What about trees diseases and other tree risks?
1. Are we unknowingly introducing practices that increase risks to our forests?
2. What are the conditions that increase fire risk?
3. Weather – drought? – wind? How common are these events?
4. Should we consider changing the forest condition? If so which conditions should have the highest priority?
5. ?

J Are our home places, old-growth trees, special places, relatively safe from fire or loss today? Into the future?
• What are our responsibilities as landowners/stewards of our properties?
• What are our responsibilities to each other?
• What are our responsibilities to the unceded crown land?
• ?

What forest conditions do we presently have on both “private” land and unceded crown land? What do we want? What options are there available to help us move between these pictures?

Do we need to consider all of these issues to consider our forests with a long-term view? What issues did I miss?

I consider these types of questions as a way to start the community conversation about our forest. Then there are the multitude of options/objectives/strategies about how to reach the many goals we have. How to best protect/preserve/manage the unceded crown lands? For myself, I want to know what we are trying to get too (goal) before I even think about the possible ways of how to get there.

I just rediscovered I had put together an information sheet about working out goals/vision for private landowners in 2002. It is mostly a compilation from other extension areas (USA & BC). It would be most useful for landowners but does present the goals/vision & objectives/options process we might think about for the BC government unceded land on Lasqueti. (01 SWP Goals Worksheet available from me by emailing: dvarney [at] shaw [dot] ca)
These are all questions that we need to consider when we think about our forest. As you can see, I do not have all the questions much less the answers. So let us start the conversation. Please reply to this blog when you have time.

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