Forests are complex, dynamic environments that operate on timescales far beyond the lifespan of human beings. Thus, managing a forest properly requires broad management goals and a long-term vision.
In Ontario, long-term management is done through a twenty-year forest management plan prepared by a Registered Professional Forester. Plans utilize Good Forestry Practices and sound silvicultural principles to ensure sustainability and a balance of social, economic and environmental values. The Plans are updated every ten years to ensure that management strategies are sustainable, effective and reflective of the most current data forest conditions and information.
The GRCA manages the Ganaraska Forest and its forested properties under the direction of the Ganaraska Forest Management Plan 2018 – 2038. Although specific objectives vary across the GRCA’s properties, the overarching focal points for management are ecological restoration and conservation, and recreation.
The Role of Timber Harvesting in Managing the Ganaraska Forest
Trees require three things to grow: water, soil and sunlight. As forest managers, we have no direct control over water and soil conditions; we are restricted to working with whatever conditions nature provides. However, we can influence sunlight conditions in a forest by selectively removing stems through a timber harvest.
In nature, sunlight is regulated in forest stands by natural disturbances. These disturbances can range from very small (individual tree mortality from an infection) to very large (forest fire). Forest managers mimic these disturbances with controlled timber harvests to create the ideal light conditions for growing desirable native species like Sugar Maple, Red Oak and White Pine.
By prioritizing the removal of diseased, dying or poor quality trees in regular intervals, timber harvests create better growing conditions for residual trees in the canopy and understory. The extra light made available through these ‘thinnings’ encourages the establishment, growth and maintenance of a healthy, diverse, and resilient forest.
They also allow for the Ganaraska Forest’s Red Pine plantations to be restored to diverse, native mixedwood forests in as little as 100 years. Under natural conditions, this process would take hundreds to thousands of years.
Sustainable timber harvests are one of the most important tools that GRCA forest management staff utilize to meet ecological management objectives for the Ganaraska Forest. These harvests are also important sources of revenue which support the maintenance of the Ganaraska Forest and other programs within the GRCA.
The Ganaraska Forest has a storied history and the benefits of management through thinning is evident everywhere. All sections of the Ganaraska Forest are actively managed for timber from August to February each year. Recreational users are recommended to check for areas with active timber harvesting prior to exploring the many trails that the forest offers.
STEPS IN A TIMBER HARVEST