Ecosystem-based planning starts with a single key idea­p;living sustainably
in a forest means living within the ecologicallimits of the forest. These
limits mean that we need to leave the forest composition, structure, and
function intact. We must do this from the large watersheds down to the single
stands of forest, and then further down to the microscopic level. We must
do this at all scales, from millennia down to centuries, down to days and
The largest and smallest scales are beyond our direct experience. We can
get a good idea of the larger picture by studying satellite images and old
pollen deposits in lake beds. We can get a good idea of the smaller picture
by studying the role of microbes in the soil nutrient cycles. Between these
scales, we can get to know the forest personally, by being in it and by
getting to know the plants and animals, great and small that are the forest.
Herb Hammond said, do not confuse the trees with the forest. A forest is
much more than just trees. Water, soils, microbes, fungi, shrubs, insects,
birds, and animals are all part of the forest, as well as the dead and down
trees. They are all as important as the large trees that dominate the landscape.
Don't confuse the trees with the forest
Forests provide biological diversity at all scales. In each handful of soil
there is an enormous variety of microbes and fungi. In each forest stand,
there is a variety of species, and trees of all ages and in all stages of
decomposition. In each watershed, there are riparian and upland stands,
each with their own characteristic species. In larger landscapes, there
is a mosaic of stands. Some stands of forest, at different stages of recovery
from natural disturbances, will have different structures from their neighbour
stands. This diversity produces the checks and balances in a forest ecosystem,
making it more resilient.
If we protect forest composition and structure, we may safeguard the functions
of a forest ecosystem. Ecosystems function at a wide range of scales. Nutrient
cycling can work from the microscopic to the stand level. Soils take centuries
to restore after a disturbance. Hydrological cycles work from the stand
to the watershed level. They sustain the quality, quantity, and timing of
water flows through the forest, so that aquatic species have good habitat.
A forest ecosystem that is functioning properly shows few signs of stress.
Unstable slopes do not give way as easily. Streams do not silt up or flood
as easily. Plants do not lack nutrients. Diseases and insect infestations
do not spread as rapidly. Extinctions do not occur so often.
Human disturbances are not natural disturbances. As Mr Hammond said, no
natural disturbance puts logs on barges to ship them hundreds of miles away.
Volcanic eruptions like Mt. St. Helen can destroy thousands of hectares
of trees, but they occur unpredictably and only over thousands of years,
not on planned 80 year rotations.
Ecologically responsible forest use means protecting all the parts of the
forest web, so it functions without stress. It means we need to take a precautionary
approach to development. Our forest activities must fit within the guidelines
of protecting the composition, structure, and function of the ecosystem.
We can no longer just go ahead, as we do now, until the harm is already
done, and only then decide to make some changes - or say "we don't
do it that way anymore."
Protecting composition, structure, and function in a forest means changing
our way of thinking and beginning to plan from the larger landscape down
to specific sites. Large protected reserves, covering whole drainage areas
of 5,000 hectares (ha) or more are storehouses of biological diversity.
They should be 50 to 200 times larger than the worst anticipated natural
disturbance, so they remain very resilient. Riparian (for streams and wetlands)
and cross-valley corridors must link these reserves, so they do not become
Protected Landscape Networks
Corridors link smaller sites also. Old growth nodes big enough to maintain
interior forest conditions, ecologically sensitive sites like wetlands,
steep slopes, shallow or cold soils, and critical habitat areas are all
essential parts of a protected landscape network.
In the workshop we learned about Wholistic Forest Use Zones. A protected
landscape network forms a framework in which ecologically responsible human
uses can occur. It is like a Swiss cheese, with the wholistic forest use
zones being the holes. In these "holes," modification for settlement,
recreation and tourism, ranching, and selective timber harvesting can occur.
Wholistic Forest Use Zones
Selective timber harvesting protects forest composition, structure, and
function at the stand level. Only partial cutting is allowed, and a variety
of species and sizes are used. About 25% of the trees are left to grow old
and die, maintaining a variety of age classes and snags. Tree planting is
not needed, because regeneration continues naturally. Pesticides are not
used. Roads are kept to a minimum. The few that are permitted must be narrow
and well fitted to the terrain, so they do not disturb natural drainage
We need broad local knowledge to practice wholistic forest use. Community
boards representing a wide range of interests are best for planning, administering,
and evaluating human activities in the forest. A locally driven board could
insure diverse, stable, and sustainable local economies that provide meaningful
work for everyone.
The working community
In the industrial timber extraction areas, we will need forest and watershed
restoration work for decades to come. Traditional forest jobs will continue
to decline, in contrast, selective logging and local value added manufacturing
are obvious ways to keep jobs in the community while reducing cuts to sustainable
However, logging is not the only or even the best use of a forest. Wildcrafting
of products such as mushrooms, berries, ferns and other floral greens, and
medicinal herbs all contribute now to local employment and revenue. These
activities can continue indefinitely, provided people do not over-harvest
or degrade the forest ecosystem. Forest recreation also contributes to the
Home-based and small businesses contribute to a local economy. They may
not employ many people in each business, but their total effect is very
significant. Retirement, tourism, arts and crafts, and education all contribute
to the economy, and to community quality of life. Hunting or fishing, and
small scale agriculture for local consumption are all important in rural
communities. Local barter or trade networks are also important for linking
the formal and informal economies.
Overall, this kind of economic diversity like the diversity in the forest
is essential to long-term stability. Industrial timber extraction will continue
causing environmental degradation. As technology improves, and as old growth
dissapears leading to the falldown in allowable cuts, more jobs will disappear.
The sooner we commit to ecosystem-based planning, the more options we will
leave for ourselves and for future generations.
THE TLELL EXAMPLE
Ecosystem-Based Planning in the Tlell
At 30,000 ha, the Tlell Watershed is too small for sound ecosystem-based
planning. The Slocan Valley Plan, in contrast, covered 340,000 ha, and the
Cortes Island Plan covered the whole island.
If we look at the Tlell in the context of its surrounding ecosections­p;the
north-eastern lowlands and the central plateau of Haida Gwaii­p;then
we must also consider the Tlell in light of human activities that occur
in these areas.
Naikoon Provincial Park is to the north. There is residential development
at the mouth of the river, and along the eastern and south-eastern coasts
of Graham Island. The full length of the Yakoun Watershed to the west, and
the Survey Creek subdrainage of the Tlell, are heavily logged. This is the
context that the Tlell would be part of with eco-system based planning.
The Tlell would not in planned in isolation but as part of the larger system
that it is.
The first step in an ecosystem-based plan is to identify large protected
reserves, then link them together using riparian and cross-valley corridors,
so they are not isolated pockets. For the Tlell, the large reserve is Naikoon
Park to the north. There are also the Council of the Haida Nation Protected
Areas in the central Tlell and the Yakoun Lake Basin (which is also designated
in the provincial Protected Areas Strategy (RPAT).
Reserves and Corridors in the Tlell
We identified riparian corridors for streams and wetlands to link Naikoon
with the Pontoons in the central Tlell. These riparian corridors also reach
into wetland areas in the upper reaches of the Tlell mainstream, Survey
Creek and Three Mile drainages, and into the hilly areas of the Feather
Lake watershed. From the unlogged upper reaches of the Tlell mainstream,
a wetland riparian corridor links to Chinukundl and other east flowing streams.
From the unlogged upper reaches of Three Mile and Feather, a corridor creates
links to Wilson Creek, and also to what little riparian forest remains along
the middle reaches of the Yakoun. (To look at the maps produced at the workshop
contact Marguerite Forest at 559-8566)
The upper reaches of Survey Creek have been heavily logged. So have the
Skowkona and Honna watersheds, and the upper reaches of Brent and Sue Creeks
in the Yakoun watershed. There are no areas left for connecting corridors
to the Skidegate Channel area or to the Yakoun Lake Basin.
Between the lower reaches of the Tlell, Mayer Lake, Log Creek, and the lower
reaches of the Yakoun, there are few clear subdrainages in which to designate
stream riparian corridors. Instead there are some very large wetland areas,
so this is a good location for wide cross-valley corridors, focused on the
riparian zones around the wetlands.
Sensitive Areas in the Tlell
Protecting old growth nodes, large enough to maintain forest conditions
in the interior of the node, is especially important in the Tlell because
of the large fire that swept through the area in the mid 1800s. Using a
satellite image and forest cover maps, we easily identified the edge of
the fire. It lies along the break between the steeper reaches of Lella,
Survey, Three Mile, and Feather Creeks, and the flatter lowlands along the
mainstream of the Tlell.
The lowlands were burned extensively but not completely. A long series of
unburned old growth patches reaches from Lawn Point, northwest into the
lower Tlell, across to the wetland area leading to Log Creek, so with a
little more work, we could identify similar unburned patches in the southern
We also identified other ecologically sensitive sites like steep slopes,
flood prone areas, and critical habitat areas. Close contour lines show
many patches of steep slopes in the upper reaches of Survey, Three Mile,
and Feather Creeks. (Along Survey Creek, where MacMillan Bloedel has already
logged, one bad landslide was clearly visible from the road during the workshop
field trip.) Flooding occurs in flat areas west of Feather Lake, around
the Pontoons, and in the meadows of the lower Tlell. There is critical habitat
in the lower Tlell for birds. For elk, the critical habitat is from the
Pontoons into Lella, Survey, Three Mile, and Feather Creeks.
Participants in the workshop learned quickly why Herb Hammond emphasizes
water so much in ecosystem-based planning.
Water in the Tlell
Local knowledge showed that the Tlell is an extremely complex watershed.
Its boundaries are often wetland areas that flow into other watersheds rather
than the well defined steep slopes we are accustomed to see as watershed
boundaries. The subdrainages of Lella, Survey, Three Mile, and Feather Creeks
all have their own character, so the quantity, quality, and timing of their
water flows are very different in each area. The Pontoons at the centre
form a critical holding area for water, this area protects the lower Tlell
by holding back water in the bog areas and releasing the water slowly. As
everyone knows, the lower Tlell has its own distinct flood scenario with
high tides and wind, and without the slow release of water from the Pontoons
and other such areas the problems in the lower Tlell could be compounded.
If clearcutting continues in the upper Tlell, floods are likely to increase
as a result of decreased canopy evaporation, higher water tables, and increased
silt in the stream beds. With the cutting that has already occurred in the
upper reaches, the water buffering capacity of the Pontoons may already
be at its maximum.
Floods may spread into wider reaches of the central Tlell, and move downstream
into the flat meandering portion of the lower Tlell more quickly.
It is clear that an enormous amount of local knowledge is readily available
for ecosystem-based planning. The usual licensee or MoF planning processes
do not include this knowledge. Ecosystem-based planning uses such knowledge
right from the start. Local people help create maps, and they decide what
uses are best for each area. This is very different from only being allowed
to comment on the maps and plans produced by agencies and companies.
Forest Use in the Tlell
An ecosystem-based plan for the Tlell does not prohibit logging. We focused
on why we will have to log very differently in the future. It also showed
us why uses other than logging are important for long-term community stability.
The workshop maps helped clarify why, if further logging occurs, in the
Tlell, a different approach to planning is critical. The maps show a protected
landscape network as well as the areas where settlement, recreation and
tourism, ranching, and selective timber harvesting can be compatible.
Soon, according to the Islands Community Stability Initiative (ICSI)/MoF
Memorandum of Understanding, the Tlell Local Resource Use Plan (LRUP) working
group must present its recommendations to the Islands Community Stability
Initiative (ICSI) or the Islands Forest Council for consensus support prior
to sign-off by Ministry of Forests. Interim development plans are due by
23 March 1997 for the Tlell and Jiinanga (Government Creek). The entire
Tlell LRUP will be completed within two years. Preparations have begun for
an island-wide Land & Resource Management Plan (LRMP) that will put
the Tlell watershed into the planning context of the whole archipelago.
Softening the blow - thinking long term
The workshop showed we can do ecosystem-based planning for the whole islands
as easily as for the Tlell. More specific plans could focus on the other
critical areas designated in the MoU. Such plans will leave the island's
forest ecosystems' composition, structure, and function intact, and provide
jobs for the long term. Softer and more diverse wholistic forest uses will
ensure an economic future that includes forestry on a truly sustainable