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EXCLUSIVE: UBC releases management scenarios for Municipal Forest Reserve

Carbon credits: ‘a lot of buyers would be willing to pay higher prices’

The UBC Partnership Group has released its long-awaited list of potential management scenarios for North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.

The four draft scenarios range from status-quo logging to full-on conservation and two in-between options.

The Forestry Advisory Committee (FAC) heard Wednesday that carbon-credit cash for allowing the forests to remain standing could be factored into the scenarios to varying degrees.

Brad Seely of 3GreenTree Ecosystem Services said “there’s been a lot of activity in the carbon market” and that prices are going up quickly.

“With a smallish local project like this you could get a lot of buyers that would be willing to pay higher prices,” he said.

He also noted that past logging has occurred largely out of public sight in the forest reserve, creating additional challenges for today’s municipal forester, Shaun Mason.

“A lot of the previous harvesting has kind of been done in the back country,” Seely said. “Shaun, I think, would say that the previous forester kind of made his life a little bit more difficult because he went for some of the easier parts to do early on."

The FAC, which includes a range of individuals with forest backgrounds, unanimously endorsed sending the UBC scenarios to council for consideration on Oct. 4 — with public engagement to follow.

The four, broad-brush scenarios are:

Status Quo:
This scenario represents a continuation of historical harvesting practices within the MFR based upon the past 25 years of data records. Both the historical rate of harvest (volume and area harvested per year) and the methods of harvest will be emulated. No carbon credits will result from this scenario. Stands will be targeted for harvest considering potential yield, accessibility, and ecological impacts. Harvesting will be reduced in visually sensitive areas with levels of retention intended to mitigate visual impacts while allowing the model to meet annual harvest targets. This scenario provides a valuable reference point for evaluating the other scenarios and establishes a baseline to help determine the potential development of carbon credits in other scenarios. The average annual harvest volumes derived from the MFR in this scenario are expected to be targeted around 17,500 cubic metres per year based on past harvesting records. A similar scenario was evaluated as the historical baseline in the MNC Carbon Project Feasibility Assessment prepared in 2020.

Reduced Harvesting:
Annual timber harvesting in this scenario will be reduced to 35 to 50 percent of the historical harvesting rate compared to Status Quo scenario. The selection of stands and methods of harvesting will be designed to provide a balance between income and employment opportunities associated with timber harvesting while minimizing the impact of harvesting on visual aesthetics, recreation opportunities, and biodiversity. The bulk of harvesting in this scenario will be variable retention (small openings) harvesting. Harvesting will be distributed across the MFR landbase but not in ecologically vulnerable and socially important areas. Road networks required to support harvesting will be included. The number of carbon credits generated under this scenario are anticipated to be less than Active or Passive Conservation.

Active Conservation:
This scenario will focus on targeted harvesting with a goal of restoring/enhancing ecosystem conditions that promote biodiversity while providing some income from harvesting. Specifically: remove some conifers from oak and arbutus woodlands to limit the competitive loss of woodland tree species and remove excessive shading to encourage development of a vigorous and diverse understory vegetation; thin overly dense conifer stands to accelerate the development of old-stand features important for biodiversity; The number of carbon credits generated under this scenario will be greater than Reduced Harvesting, but less than Passive Conservation.

Passive Conservation:
The principal objective of this scenario is to let the forests within the MFR develop with minimal human intervention. This scenario is expected to enhance the development of wilderness recreation opportunities by reducing the footprint of human activities. This scenario will likely generate maximum carbon credits as compared to any other scenario. This scenario provides a valuable reference point for the overall analysis. The quantity of carbon credits generated from this scenario is expected to be similar to that derived from the no-harvesting scenario presented in the MNC Carbon Project Feasibility Assessment prepared in 2020. The potential value of carbon credits has changed since the 2020 evaluation and has been updated as part of the current scenario analysis.

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— Larry Pynn, Sept. 30, 2022


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