SkeenaWild’s Forestry Program aims to support improved forestry and land use practices that protect water, salmon and wildlife populations. We are collaborating with Indigenous, conservation, government, and academic partners to strengthen our ability to achieve sustainable outcomes. These initiatives and opportunities cover large areas of both the Skeena and Nass watersheds. Our experienced foresters and land use planners position SkeenaWild well to support this work.
As part of our Responsible Development Initiative, SkeenaWild published a report, Opportunities for Sustainable Forestry in Northwest British Columbia. Our goal is to help communities come together to discuss how to move towards more resilient and sustainable local economies. These discussions include developing northwest BC’s forest industry in new and responsible ways that support wildlife and diminishing salmon populations, provide increased resilience in the face of climate change, and benefit northwest BC’s economy.
Indigenous community-led land use planning is one way in which reconciliation can be realized. Our long-term goal is to move from outdated forestry practices and land use plans that do not protect functioning habitats to detailed spatially-explicit land use plans that protect wildlife, ecosystems, culture and local economies. These land use plans provide a clear path forward for how, when, and where development can occur on the land base without conflict. With some Indigenous-led land use plans already operationalized in the Skeena Watershed, it’s clear that they provide guidance and certainty for sustainable rates of resource development and can simultaneously foster positive respectful relationships, help promote long-term ecological resilience, protect shared values, and maximize benefits to local communities.
An example of a successful Indigenous-led land use plan is the Gitanyow Land Use Plan, incorporated into BC law in 2012, a process that spanned 15 years. With the Gitanyow Land Use Plan in operation for over a decade, it has become a leading example for successful community-based land management. Commitments by the provincial and federal governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) supports the role of Indigenous groups to undertake land use planning. The Gitanyow Plan has informed and inspired neighboring nations to develop similar land use plans. SkeenaWild is working with Gitxsan Watershed Groups to develop and implement new land use plans.
Healthy forest ecosystems in northwest BC include healthy wild salmon populations, and it is known that forestry development activities have the potential to directly impact salmon health. Management of wild salmon populations generally fall under federal jurisdiction, while forestry activities in BC are governed by provincial legislation. This policy gap presents challenges in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems and the salmon that live there. Fortunately, tools are already available at a federal level to assess development for potential impacts to salmon – and forest ecosystem – health. The Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) Habitat Working Group developed thresholds and benchmarks for habitat indicators most impacted by forest development activities (i.e. road densities, stream side vegetation disturbance, equivalent clear-cut area, linear development, and fish passages). Using these habitat indicators to assess resource development in northwest BC and inform decision-making (keep habitats out of the high-risk zone) can help address concerns regarding cumulative impacts to ecosystem health and wild salmon.
The Watershed Stewardship Decision Support tool is used in forest management planning applications to assess what percentage of a watershed can be logged/developed before it risks losing its ability to support water quality and stream health. This tool supports good decision-making with transparent baseline information for managing risk to watershed integrity. SkeenaWild is using this tool in the Skeena watershed (Babine River and Kispiox River so far) to inform and improve management of watershed integrity across the B.C. forestry sector. The Watershed Stewardship Decision Support Tool represents a significant step toward ensuring a transparent and scientifically-based approach to assessment and management of watershed health and integrity.
Global climate change is well underway. Climate scientists are telling us that humanity has only about one to three decades to avoid runaway climate warming. Forest management however, can play a unique positive role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Forests naturally both absorb and release carbon, resulting in a dynamic balance that changes over time, depending on stand age and on type and intensity of disturbance. Depending on how a forest naturally functions, and how it is managed, it can either contribute to or reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. For example, old-growth forests steadily accumulate carbon for centuries. When old-growth forests are logged, there is a net release of carbon to the atmosphere for decades and sometimes for over a century. Logging results not only in losses to above and below ground carbon stocks, but also in lower rates of absorption & storage for one to several decades, until rates of net carbon uptake in the secondary forest return to pre-harvest rates.
SkeenaWild works with scientists, foresters, government, and community groups to share the best available information and ensure that carbon accounting is done openly and transparently. In collaboration with Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, we partnered with renowned Forest Ecologist Dr. Jim Pojar to develop the report Forestry and Carbon in BC. The report lays out seven forest carbon myths, misconceptions or oversimplifications. Dr. Pojar also provides a series of recommendations and potential solutions to help reach BC’s climate targets through improved forest management.
SkeenaWild’s Forestry Program “aims to support better forestry and land use practices that protect water, salmon and wildlife populations” and “we are collaborating with Indigenous, conservation, government, and academic partners to strengthen our ability to achieve sustainable outcomes.” Consistent with this focus and collaborative approach, this Best Management Practice for northern goshawks is published by SkeenaWild. Goshawks are an iconic forest raptor, and an indicator of forest ecosystem health throughout forests of the northern hemisphere, as they rely on the presence of old forest structure for nesting, and on the presence of abundant and available prey to support successful breeding.
Decades of monitoring, research, and collaboration across the landscapes of central and northwestern BC and Haida Gwaii have shown a precipitous decline in goshawk populations. Through research and monitoring we have learned that this decline is in large part linked to clear-cut forest harvesting, as well as the subsequent even-aged conifer plantations that lack the required forest structure and available prey. If we are not to lose the goshawk, the focus now must be on managing for the remaining individual territories, so that viable populations can be maintained. Through these Best Management Practices, we provide guidance as to approaches to future harvest and landscape management that are required to maintain forest structure and thereby the goshawks and the species on which they depend.
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