A look at a map showing the vintage of our B.C. forest inventory shows much of it is at least ten years out of date. Now is a good time to get things current. With the mountain pine beetles running out of wood we have to make sense of the dead and degraded bug-attacked forests that cover millions of hectares of the province. We also have to closely monitor our second growth plantations, particularly young pine stands that are showing serious forest health problems. And we probably have to play some catch up on adopting the latest methodologies for gathering and sorting the information needed. It is hard to argue against the providence and necessity of getting our forest inventories on track.
Nevertheless, in setting our inventory in order, we need to outline to what larger purpose we intend to apply this information. Inventorying the forest is a means not an end. In fact we may need to set our goals before we begin measuring. Just as our information has fallen behind events on the ground, so has the overarching forest management regime that required it. In this post mountain pine beetle setting we need a new defining doctrine that will actually identify the kind of information we include in the next inventory. There is the strong possibility that data will need to be both deeper and wider and that it will serve a different set of purposes than its predecessor.
Just what the next management regime looks like is beginning to take shape. Terms like forest health, resilience, and restoration are gaining some currency in both political and administrative circles. But they will need to be shaped into a coherent set of objectives in order to guide practices. The WSCA in its Green Plan framed a few years ago recommended we make all management activities, including the harvest, move us towards creating forest conditions so that the future landscape will be able to better resist, and not repeat, the kinds of events we have just seen devastate much of the province. Call it restoring forest health. Or building resilience back into ecosystems. But it needs to be defined so it can point us in a new and clear direction. To update our inventories and then apply that information to the previous practices and purposes will be disappointing.
Notwithstanding the latter necessity we are far past the point in the unfolding, or the unraveling, of events on the ground to put things on hold while we undertake the inventory. The need for some activities is self evident. For instance managing the fire threat to communities, infrastructure and the existing productive forests doesn’t need a lot of study. We can be accomplishing constructive work creating jobs and restoring key traits to our forests while we undertake the inventory. Over time that can all be brought together under the overarching direction that government and forest shareholders need to elaborate soon.
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