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RMOW experiments with tree thinning

Tree thinning may be logging by another name, but it could turn out to be a necessary step in the Lost Lake Park to guard against forest fires and improve the wildlife values in the forest.

From Oct. 25 to Nov. 5, the RMOW is planning a thinning trial in dense second-growth stands in Lost Lake Park behind Spruce Grove Field House. A section of Centennial Trail, as well as its connection to the White Gold Traverse will be closed during this period, allowing workers to conduct experimental work on three small plots, totaling about 0.7 hectares.

Because of the park’s clearcut logging history more than 50 years ago, the trees that grew back are all of a uniform age and spaced more closely than would happen in a natural forest. As a result the forests are unnaturally dense, which elevates the fire risk and reduces habitat for local wildlife.

Heather Beresford, the sustainability supervisor for the RMOW, is overseeing the project. They don’t know how much forest will need to be thinned she says but the experiment should give them some idea of the costs, as well as what thinning methods are most effective.

"The fire department is working on a wildlife strategy for the area, and as part of that strategy they’re going to be canvassing the area to calculate the risk," said Beresford. "This (experiment) gives us a jump on it – we do the experiment now, and we’ll know how much to trim in order to achieve optimal density to reduce fire risk and improve wildlife habitat."

The trial will differ from conventional timber plantations by intentionally retaining deciduous trees such as cottonwood, alder, willow and cherry instead of more valuable coniferous trees. The workers will also remove cut trees and branches to reduce fuel for fires, and cut trees as low as possible to the ground. The pruning will also increase understory vegetation, which is crucial for forest biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

The wood that is hauled out of the thinned areas will be taken by one craftsman to produce local oils and by a landscaper for various projects. They will also see if the wood is needed in Squamish at Carney’s composting facility.

"(Wood disposal) is a big issue for us as well, because if we do this on a larger scale we’ll have to figure out what to do with all the debris."