Highway 40 North Demonstration Project A Foothills Model Forest Natural Disturbance Proposal Introduction The Foothills Model Forest (FMF) has committed to promote and participate in demonstration projects that use information and tools developed by the FMF to improve Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) in the forest. One of the more obvious choices for a demo project is the application of natural range of variation knowledge. The FMF Natural Disturbance Program has amassed a large amount of local knowledge on historical disturbance patterns at a wide range of spatial and temporal scales over the past six years. Furthermore, while the NRV strategy of forest management holds great promise, it is largely untested and unproven in the real world. While small steps are being taken by most partners (such as creating larger blocks with more residual material), nowhere has there been a comprehensive use of NRV knowledge testing how and to what degree a truly NRV inspired plan might be compatible with other values, economically feasible, and socially acceptable. Objective Demonstrate the application of the full range of NRV concepts in such a way that supports, and integrates with, other values, and informs policy and planning. Key elements include: Consideration of the full range of NRV patterns. Partnerships. A focus on clearly defined objectives and outcomes. Include multi-value components appropriate to the partnerships and scale. Designed to include opportunities for public viewing in the forest. Designed to provide scientific opportunities towards the ecological impacts of using NRV. Location The site currently under consideration for this demonstration project is an area approximately 60,000 hectares in size spanning parts of the Weldwood, ANC, and Weyerhaeuser FMA’s, as well as a small portion of the Willmore Wilderness Area. The area is bisected by Highway 40, and runs from approximately the Berland River in the south to Pierre Greys Lakes in the north and roughly corresponds to the main foothills winter range of the A la Peche caribou herd. This location and size were chosen deliberately for several reasons: All three FMA holders have plans to harvest in that area anyways over the next decade. Integrate with Mountain Pine Beetle mitigation efforts from the Willmore threat. Focus both caribou and grizzly bear management through a single plan (instead of 4).
Integrate with regional landscape fire threat efforts. Attempt to integrate with localized oil and gas activities. Readily accessible to the public, scientists, and other professionals. Test the feasibility of cross-jurisdictional, longer-term planning. Allow consideration of the use of fire as a management tool (in the Willmore).
Current Situation Industry, the Alberta Government, and Jasper National Park have been working cooperatively on caribou conservation in the area for many years through the West Central Alberta Caribou Standing Committee. New Forest Management Plans have been approved for each of the three FMA-holders in the last three years, and the WCACSC is working on a composite landscape analysis of caribou habitat in the area. The FMA-holders cooperated on a commercial thinning research and demonstration project in the area to increase lichen food resources for caribou. FMA-holders are also working on access plans for the area in cooperation with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. Oil and gas exploration and development is rapidly increasing. Trapping is active in the area. Recreational use is concentrated in the Pierre Greys Lakes area and is low elsewhere in the area, except as a staging area for trips into the Willmore Wilderness Area to the west. Finally, that particular landscape is considered to be at very high risk from natural disturbance agents such as fire and mountain pine beetle, since it is a large area of mature, contiguous conifer-dominated forest. Concept The overall concept is to build on existing initiatives and cooperatively plan and implement a demonstration of leading-edge SFM concepts for a landscape-scale forest. Key focus areas include: Use natural disturbance patterns as a template for forest planning and harvesting. Incorporate habitat supply and other considerations for caribou and other species of special concern such as grizzly bear, wolverine, and bull trout. Incorporate watershed and riparian initiatives to conserve aquatic resource values. Coordinate and minimize infrastructure footprint, including linear corridors. Minimize our temporal footprint in the area by adopting an “in and out” strategy. Develop information and education sites along the Highway 40 corridor to complement other communication initiatives. The FMF will sponsor a preliminary meeting on December 10th at the ETC in Hinton with invited representatives to discuss interest in the project and further develop the concept.