Monday, May 24, 2010

Air time, stud mill and a lecture -- May 12

There is nothing to say except we had an incredible host family! Keith wanted to take us up in his plane to see the beetle damage from the air. What an opportunity! You can see the damage on the ground but to see the extent of it from the air would definitely be a treat. So we left at 5:30 a.m. in his 1953 Piper. The view was phenomenal!
I was able to really get the big picture from the air. You can see in the picture below all the red trees. Those are dying lodgepole pines.

This picture shows areas that were harvested as a salvage due to mountain pine beetle. This is on Keith's property. We saw lots of these patches and more areas that needed to be cut. Very devestating.

I guess Keith didn't think we could see the black bear from the air so he did a tight 360 to get close (pretty much buzzed the bear). It didn't even move! Meanwhile I was trying to figure out where I was in the plane. Keith let me take control for a few minutes. What a scary feeling being in charge of that plane (mind you, he could just reach out and take control). I was really surprised how sensitive the controls are. I was relieved when Keith took over again. What an experience! What a beautiful morning for a flight. Such incredible views! Seeing all the area with dying trees and all the patch cuts really put things in perspective. There is just so much dead pine it is depressing.
Our appointment with the pellet facility fell through so we had some time to grab breakfast and get back on the internet. If the rest of the trip goes this way, it is going to be difficult to communicate with my family and keep the blog current (seeing that I'm actually entering this 12 days later, you probably get that!). I was able to get on Skype to see and speak with Mark and Max. They are holding down the fort. Max let me know that Mark had painted our room (spoiling the surprise). You can't expect a 3 year old to keep a secret.
After our short break we were off to Prince George. We arrived and were greeted by Assistant Governor Gary Gurnsey and Rotarian Brian who is the hotel manager. After the warm welcome we sat down to a nice lunch at a local restaurant. Gary would be spending the rest of the day as our guide.
Our first stop this afternoon is to meet with the Prince George office of the Ministry for Forests and Range. We met with five of the staff from this office including John McClary (Stewardship Officer), Yvonne Parkinson (Forest Science Officer) and Craig DeLong (Research Ecologist). Craig gave a presentation on climate change and extreme weather. He has developed a risk analysis tool for forestry. John explained his role as the Stewardship Officer and some of our questions were answered. We learned today that the Crown owns 95% of the land. That is such an difference from our ownership in the south.
Next stop was Lakeland Mills. Chris led us on a tour of the stud mill. We saw a lot of blue wood. After pine beetle attacks a tree, blue stain fungus is in the wood. This produces a staining. This is not so much a structural problem as a visual defect. In fact, we learned the Japanese market will not purchase blue stained wood. In this mill the process is very automated including final quality grading of the product. The pictures show from start to finish, lots of wood!

We rushed from Lakeland Mills to the University of Northern British Columbia. The program chair, Dr. Kathy Lewis had arranged a wine and cheese reception for us. I owe Kathy a big thank you for advertising and arranging for me to give a lecture on campus. Counting the team, there were 25 or so people in attendance. I struggled early on with what type of content to provide but after just a few days in British Columbia I realized our land ownership and tax systems were completely different. So I was able to give an overview of who owns the land in the United States and the South. This topic did get several questions as they struggled to understand how it would with with 86% private ownership. Their questions led me right into an overview of our complicated tax structure and our landowner incentives. I think by the end it was clear that our system has problems (so does theirs). An international version of "is the grass really greener on the other side". We had heard rumors that the province was considering transferring ownership of some land to individuals. I think this lecture showed those in attendance what the extreme opposite as far as land ownership might look like. There were lots of great questions from the audience. I thought my lecture would run short but timing was good and the questions had to be cut off and fielded in the hallway. This was a great opportunity for me and I appreciate Kathy's help in making it happen!

Thus ended a really long day. From great views to great opportunity. What a day!


  1. Fantastic pics! Nice to see that the learning is going in both directions. Are these similar to our pine beetles or different species?
    Looking forward to hearing more!

  2. thanks Karen. Got lots of other pics! Was just thinking about you today during a walk through the woods down to the Pacific coast. Lots of ferns! These are similar to our pine beetles but are a different species. There are some management reasons why this got out of control as well as biological and environmental factors that contributed. We did speak with an entomologist and I'll eventually get that posted :) Way behind! Time to do this has to be squeezed in! See you next week!