Forestry & Land Use Planning
Treating this land as if it were our home
SkeenaWild’s Forestry Program aims to support better forestry and land use management that protect water and salmon and wildlife populations. We are collaborating with indigenous, conservation, government, and academic partners to strengthen our ability to achieve positive 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 forestry 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.
Read the full report and watch the video here.
Using Wild Salmon Policy Habitat Assessments
Healthy forest ecosystems in northwest BC include healthy wild salmon populations, and forestry activities directly impact salmon health. However, wild salmon policies generally fall under federal jurisdiction, while forestry activities in BC are directed by provincial legislation. This policy gap presents challenges in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems and the salmon that live there. As such, BC is creating a made-in- BC Wild Salmon Strategy that prioritizes the health of wild salmon and directs resource-use decisions to be made using a ‘salmon lens’. Fortunately, tools are already available at a federal level to assess development for impacts on salmon – and forest ecosystem – health. The Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) Habitat Working Group has 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 sedimentation). Using these habitat indicators to assess proposed forestry development activities in northwest BC and direct decision-making can help address concerns regarding cumulative impacts related to forest ecosystem health and wild salmon. The Pacific Salmon Foundation developed the Pacific Salmon Explorer tool which provides the public with timely information on the current status of salmon populations and pressures on their habitats for the North and Central Coast of BC. SkeenaWild has worked with the Wet’suwet’en, Lake Babine Nation and Gitxsan in developing salmon habitat impact assessment tools for the Morice, Babine and middle Skeena areas.
Watershed Stewardship Decision Support Tool
The Watershed Stewardship Decision Support tool is used in forestry to assess what percentage of a watershed can be logged/developed before it risks losing its ability to support water quality and stream health. The tool supports sustainable natural resource decision making with transparent baseline information for managing risk to watershed integrity. SkeenaWild is assisting in implementing this tool in the Skeena watershed to improve how we manage for watershed integrity within the forestry sector. This tool will ensure a transparent, accountable and scientifically-based approach to watershed management, something desperately required and largely lacking in past and current forest management practices. The health and viability of our streams and rivers depends on responsible management that is accountable to the public, First Nations and government.
Forestry & Carbon
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. The relative balance between absorption and emission determines whether a particular forest ecosystem is a net carbon source or a sink. 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. With our partners at Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, SkeenaWild recently supported renowned Forest Ecologist Jim Pojar to develop the report Forestry and Carbon in BC. In this report, Dr. Pojar lays out seven forest carbon myths, misconceptions or oversimplifications. He also provides a series of recommendations and potential solutions to help reach BC’s climate targets through improved forest management.
Read Dr. Jim Pojar’s report Forestry and Carbon in BC and watch the summary video here.
Land Use Planning
Indigenous-led ecosystem-based land use planning is an important tool for ensuring responsible natural resource development. The primary purpose of such plans is to increase protections for ecosystem function and indigenous values, such as maintaining and protecting water quality, salmon, wildlife, berries, cedar, medicinal plants, and cultural resources. Simultaneously, these detailed management directives provide clarity and certainty for industries interested in operating within the respective territories. These plans foster positive respectful relationships and help to promote long-term ecological resilience, protect cultural 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 the better part of a decade, it has become a leading example for successful community-based management. This progressive and comprehensive land use plan is also seen as an important step towards reconciliation. Recent commitments by the provincial and federal governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) are helping drive interest by indigenous groups to undertake land use planning to help meet the goals of UNDRIP in a practical way on the ground while also providing clear guidance and certainty for resource development. The Gitanyow Land Use Plan has informed and inspired neighbouring nations to develop similar land use plans for their territories. One such example is Gitwangak. SkeenaWild is actively working with Gitwangak to support the implementation and provincial legalization of the Gitwangak Land Use Plan. SkeenaWild is also working with other indigenous groups in initiating new land use planning processes.