Prince William and Princess Kate have visited the Great Bear rainforest in western Canada in recognition of its International conservation interest.
The world’s largest temperate rainforest, it features 90 metre tall Sitka spruce trees and 1,000 year old western red cedar. Plus bears, salmon etc in what is an incredible, intact temperate ecosystem.
Sitka spruce and western red cedar grows pretty well here in Scotland and the weather for the visit was what our foresters describe as “good spruce growing weather”. In fact, the climate and topography is basically like Scotland, without the midges (and with bigger trees).
I know that some people think that Kate and little George are photogenic, but I prefer the trees. Take a look at Ian McAillister’s work.
Great to see the Royals championing a conservation success story. This area will be managed as a ‘wilderness’ with some areas of ‘Ecosytem based forestry’. Overall the area is part of a giant temperate forest biome, which is largely managed for productive forestry.
The views and comments are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any particular organisation.
Jason Sinden is a professional member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and a Director of Tilhill Forestry Ltd.
The forestry industry globally has a significant challenge when it comes to ensuring worker safety. Whilst significant strides have been made over the last twenty years with the advent of mechanised harvesting technology the accident rate amongst chainsaw and winch operators still remains at unacceptably high levels and is amongst the highest of any industrial sector.
In order to address this issue the global industry is seeking to increase the degree of mechanisation of timber harvesting operations and significant efforts have been made overseas, principally in New Zealand and Central Europe, but also latterly in North America to utilise new technology to achieve this.
The principal limitation to increasing the amount of timber harvested by mechanised means is the current slope limitations that existing mechanised machinery is constrained by.
In order to increase the terrain capabilities of existing harvesting machinery the forestry industry has begun to develop tethered winches which provide additional traction to timber harvesting machinery and thereby increase the degree of slope on which conventional machinery can operate.
Although this technology is in its infancy in the UK a number of winch systems for use on steep terrain have been developed overseas.
In order to increase awareness of these technological innovations within the UK and also to begin developing operational protocols to cover the use of these developments Tilhill Forestry is organising a tethered harvesting demonstration day in South Wales on Tuesday October 4th.
On display at this event will be two tethered harvesting machines.
The T-Winch is a traction winch system which has been developed in Austria by Ecoforst. The T-Winch is a self-propelled traction winch which has 500m of cable incorporated within it and allows a conventional harvesting machine to be attached to the machine to increase the traction available to the tethered machine and increase the slope angle on which the tethered machine is safely able to operate.
The CEO of Ecoforst – Markus Krenn – is a timber harvesting contractor in Austria who saw the benefits that a greater degree of mechanisation offered and developed the T-Winch to enable this. The T-Winch has been in the development stage for over 5 years, but has only been in commercial production for the last 18 months, so it is a new development, but one that promises significant potential benefits to the industry, both in terms of operational safety improvements, but also additionally reduced ground damage.
Despite this being a very recent development the T-Winch is currently operating with a number of timber harvesting gangs in Central Europe and there is additionally six T-Winches operating in the forestry industry in Chile. Markus also has strong interest from North America and Markus will be across at the Maple Ridge forestry show in British Columbia demonstrating the T-Winch immediately prior to attending the event in Wales.
In addition to the T-Winch a tethered Kaiser walking excavator with a set of tree shears will be demonstrated at this event.
For further information on this event please contact Chris Pike at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerah is now two years old (think trees at or below knee height), and has been created with the primary purpose of being a productive conifer woodland to provide quality timber. It is home to an impressive 1.3 million trees, comprising 16 different tree species and 30% amenity woodland. Previously a sheep farm owned by two farmer brothers, grazing became an increasingly marginal activity, and the brothers chose to sell the site to a woodland investor in May 2013.
Tilhill Forestry are in charge of implementing the project for the investor, and we met Andrew Vaughan and colleagues Darrell and Bruce at the site of the new bridge Tilhill acquired planning permission for in order to facilitate access to and from the site. As well as this bridge, 11km of new forest tracks have enhanced off-road access from Menstrie to Dunblane, and are already in use by mountain bikers and walkers. After brief introductions, Andrew took us through the process Tilhill have been through to get to this point.
Jerah was carefully planned, following guidelines set by the UK Forestry Standard, the Water Framework Directive, and Forestry Commission guidelines on Forests and Water, Forests and Soil, Forests and Climate Change and Forests and Biodiversity. Andrew highlighted the particularly useful role of the Forestry Commission’s Ecological Site Classification (ESC) tool in guiding appropriate species choices. In practice, Jerah has exceeded the expectations of many of the guidelines, providing 19.1% native species (well over the 5% minimum required), and increasing the width of buffers surrounding watercourses well beyond the required 10 metres for channels less than 2 metres wide.
Despite the careful planning, Tilhill’s experience of getting Jerah planted highlights the lengthy and complicated consultation process currently required for woodland creation schemes. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) identified landscape, archaeology, flood management, diffuse pollution, public access and timber transport as main considerations, and the whole process of approval took two years and a word count equivalent to three bibles!
EIA is of course a necessary and valuable process, yet given the anticipated benefits that will be provided by the scheme, it seems greater attention should be paid to reducing the length and difficulty of this process. It is anticipated that forest growth at Jerah will sequester an estimated 183,000 tonnes of CO2 within its first rotation, and that it will provide 5 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, as well as creating new native woodland habitat networks that will allow native fauna and flora to move along the watercourses within the glen. Research has also suggested that forest cover can have a role in intercepting and slowing rainfall (Nisbet and Thomas, 2002; Woodland Trust, 2012), thus regulating flood events, and a PhD research project has been set up to monitor river flows in the catchment in order to see what effect the new woodland is having. Given previous damaging flood events in Menstrie, it is hoped that Jerah could have a beneficial effect in reducing the likelihood of these happening again. In addition to the hydrology study, another PhD is being set up to monitor carbon fluxes on the site, and another university has expressed interest in examining the archaeological features of the glen. As well as generating considerable research interest, a well-planned area of community woodland aims to enhance public access and enjoyment of the site, and has maintained flightpaths for local paragliders.
Of course, a project as large and complicated as Jerah can’t be perfect, and Roy Sexton, a local ecologist, highlighted the loss of rare orchids and existing native trees as unintended downsides of the scheme. Although a difficult choice to make, the loss of open ground specialist species is an inherent trade-off generated by woodland creation. The point about loss of existing native woodland remnants is a well-made one, as adapting grant schemes for woodland planting to allow for use of existing native seed sources for natural regeneration would both save money and retain local native trees.
Despite this, overall Jerah presents itself as an exemplar of modern forestry. Tilhill’s open approach to promoting site visits, discussions and encouraging better understanding of forestry is commendable and highlights the important role of individuals in driving difficult projects like this through. 21st Century challenges present society with tough choices to make for sustainability, and with the Scottish Government aspiring to plant 10,000 ha of new woodland each year, large scale modern forestry projects such as Jerah offer the potential for sustainable and efficient building materials, renewable energy, carbon storage and flood management – a great deal more benefits than many other land use options.
There need to be many more plantations like Jerah to be anywhere near meeting both the Scottish government targets for woodland expansion and UK timber demand, and as a result more needs to be done to advertise the benefits of such plantations, and to reduce the difficulty of the consultation process required to get such schemes into the ground. Of course, plantations are not a panacea, but they have their place among a variety of other woodland types and land uses. Any forester you speak to will be painfully aware of the ‘wrongs of the past’ (i.e. the blanket conifer plantations of the 1970s) and will be quick to explain how much forestry has changed. With more varied plantations like Jerah and open and transparent approaches from organisations like Tilhill, modern forestry has a major role to play in sustainable land use in Scotland and beyond.
To view the article on Vanessa’s blog, click here.
Vanessa Burton is a PhD student at Edinburgh University, joint funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Forest Research and the Scottish Forestry Trust.
Thomas, H. and Nisbet, T.R (2007) An assessment of the impact of floodplain woodland on flood flows, Water and Environment Journal, 21, 2, 114-126
Woodland Trust (2014) Holding back the waters: woodland creation and flood mitigation, Policy Paper, woodlandtrust.org.uk/wales