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New seedlings at risk in Community Forest

The drought and this summer’s heat dome has damaged many of the young trees
Steve Law is the manager of the Clinton and District Community Forest. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

The Clinton and District Community Forest escaped the season’s wildfires but the recent drought and extreme conditions are expected to have a significant effect on 2.5 million seedlings planted this spring.

CFF manager Steve Law said the trees, mostly fir and pines, are facing an increased morbidity rate due to the extreme temperatures in the region this year. A post-mortem on the forest and the seedlings’ survival rate is expected to take place next year.

“They are at risk. We had the so-called heat dome period and a couple of months of drought,” Law said, adding random samples of seedlings planted last year have shown that even those trees have suffered some mortality from the drought. “Seedlings are pretty susceptible in the first couple of years so it’s a problem.”

The Community Forest, which has a 25-year agreement with the B.C. government for a current license area of 62,374 hectares, has an obligation to replant trees in logging cut blocks. The Clinton and District Community Forest, run by a seven-member board of directors, has an allowable cut of 20,000 cubic metres per year or 100,000 cubic metres over five years.

Law said if the trees do not survive, they will have to look at replanting, which is a complex process that involves buying the seeds, growing them in a nursery and then growing them. The board, he said, will also likely look at spreading out the program over a couple of years and consider the species selection for replanting. Pine trees, he noted, are more drought-tolerant than fir.

“We’ll do a complete post-mortem after this year,” Law said. “We’ll do a survival survey on it and see what’s died, going ahead.”

The wildfires and drought have had other effects on the Community Forest by curtailing logging operations due unsafe conditions, road closures and area restrictions. It has also resulted in more Douglas Fir bark beetle-infested trees, which are prevalent and readily visible around Clinton. The bark beetle causes the trees to turn red, leaving orange-brown dust on the stem.

“It was already on the rise in the past couple of years and now with the fires, it will make the problem worse,” Law said.

The Community Forest plans to focus on salvaging the Douglas fir bark beetle-infested wood over the next few years. A probe at the base of the trees to determine the levels of current attack is being carried out and an aerial flight will be conducted this fall to help map the infestation.

READ MORE: Clinton and District Community Forest passes audit

The move comes after the CFF recently completed salvage harvesting last month in an area located on top of the Bonaparte Plateau, northwest of Loon Lake - the last sawlog salvage permit within the Elephant Hill Wildfire area. Future salvage opportunities within the area will now focus on biomass, possibly for hog fuel, Law said.

“You want to salvage first and foremost before logging a green, healthy stand of trees,” Law said.

The Community Forest relies on logging to provide funds to the village of Clinton and non-profit organizations. In 2021, CCF doled out $64,090 to non-profit organizations in 2021, from grants carried over from past years as no logging was done in 2020.

Meanwhile, plans for a 300-metre wide fuel break on the opposite side of Clinton is out for referrals and consultation to other tenure holders and First Nations. This is the first of many steps in the consultation process and more information will be forthcoming over the next couple of months.

A piling and raking treatment, on the 100-metrewide fuel break south of Clinton, was completed in April, while the planting 100 stems per hectare of aspen will occur in the spring of 2022. Aspen is being planted for its resiliency to fire.

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