With over sixty percent of British Columbia made up of forests, the province is home to some of the oldest and biggest trees in Canada. These big trees are valued for their cultural, biological and intrinsic values.
As we, at Western, work to strike a balance between contributing to local economies through harvesting and manufacturing wood products and protecting the environment for the long-term, we are taking a leading role in the identification and conservation of big trees on the lands that we manage.
As science evolves, Western is continuously improving our practices to be a leader in sustainable forest management. One important example has been our work to apply the latest silvicultural systems to our harvesting practices.
Nearly 20 years ago, interest and understanding of how to retain forest biodiversity grew. As the lands that Western now manages were at the forefront of implementing the newest sustainability practices by predecessor companies, protecting big trees has been an important aspect of our Forest Strategy for decades.
Our approach centers around retaining forest stands in structures in the harvestable landbase in to maintain ecological diversity over the long term. This involves setting aside and conserving single trees or portions of old growth areas which often complement other forest values, including cultural, wildlife and riparian habitats. These areas are over and above designated legal protected areas and strategies for maintaining forest health over the short and long term including progressive reforestation techniques in harvested stands.
The big tree policy is one component of Western’s commitment to sustainable forest management on the public and private lands in our care.
Our big tree policy was put in place to support our ongoing focus on identifying and protecting big trees providing specific guidelines by species to identify and conserve the largest trees and unique groupings of big trees on the lands we manage.
Western’s big tree policy meets and exceeds the measurement guidelines in the Big Tree Registry, a listing of verified and protected big trees across British Columbia managed by an independent board and housed at the University of British Columbia. Trees that are at least half the size of the largest diameter of those registered by UBC are considered for retention as follows:
|Species||Largest diameter |
|Diameter guidance for |
big tree retention (m)
|Western Red Cedar||6.0||3.0|
|Coastal Douglas Fir||4.2||2.1|
While we make every effort to protect trees meeting these guidelines, safety concerns take precedent in determining whether a tree can be retained.
As we continuously strive to define a higher standard at Western, we are proud to be the first company to have formalized a policy to identify and protect the biggest trees on the private and public lands we manage. As new information becomes more readily available through our investment in technology, these guidelines are being refined – for instance, to include tree height in addition to diameter – marking another step forward in our forest strategy.
Technology is making all our lives easier. From smartphones to cloud computing, it is hard to imagine what we did before these innovations.
At Western, we are harnessing the power of technology to implement efficiencies, strengthen safety and enhance our sustainable forest management practices. While big trees have been conserved as part of our forest strategy for nearly twenty years, the way in which we do this has markedly changed through the use of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, a 3D mapping tool.
In the past, forestry professionals gathered information through field surveys. While these remain important means to assess forestlands, they involve time-consuming and labour-intensive processes. In addition, forests present significant challenges when it comes to obtaining precise and detailed information given their size, areas of difficult terrain and remoteness.
Through the use of LiDAR, Western is now able to meet the need for timely, accurate and comprehensive information over extensive areas. We have been able to accurately and efficiently identify big trees while expanding our definition of big trees to include a tree’s height – something difficult to obtain by traditional methods.
Since implementing LiDAR, we have identified approximately 2,000 big trees, many that are taller than 80 meters in height on the lands we manage that could meet the standards of our big tree policy. The tallest tree identified – a 94 metre Douglas fir – stands approximately as tall as a 30 storey building. Trees, such as this one, will be protected as biological anchors to support forest biodiversity.
As a next step, we will be verifying those tall trees identified by LiDAR through field assessments. An enormous leap forward from previous methods, the use of LiDAR represents a new way to meet Western’s long-standing commitment to identifying and protecting some of B.C.’s oldest tress.
Informed by the spirit of reconciliation, Western works closely with First Nations so that we can all benefit from the forest that we manage. Through our newly created TFL 44 Partnership, Western is exploring with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations ways to build on both parties’ efforts to maintain big trees on its forest tenures in the Alberni Valley and in TFL 44. We are also committed to working with other First Nations to understand and preserve the cultural legacy of iconic trees on whose traditional territories we operate.
Download our latest news on how Western is identifying and protecting big trees here.