Landscape unit planning
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Landscape Unit Planning. Basic geographical units for planning or adapting to large-scale ecosystem processes. Two fundamental components: old growth management areas, and early seral patch sizes.

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Landscape Unit Planning

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Landscape unit planning

Landscape Unit Planning

  • Basic geographical units for planning or adapting to large-scale ecosystem processes.

  • Two fundamental components: old growth management areas, and early seral patch sizes.

  • The basic intent is, over an extended timeframe (250 years), to maintain a balance of seral stages and patch sizes within the landscape unit over time

  • These targets apply to BEC units within LU’s.

Landscape unit planning

  • Larger areas are preferred, to provide flexibility.

  • In Kootenay Lake TSA, we have 24 LU’s, ranging in size from 30,000 to 80,000 ha.

  • LU’s were estabished by District Manager’s Order in July 1998

  • We have found the LU files (12500-25 K01) to be a useful place to store miscellaneous land-based information.

  • Although old growth is the primary reason for the existence of LU’s, policy direction is to use constrained or inoperable forest first. You should, therefore, gather all relevant resource information.

Planning framework

Planning Framework

1. Legislation and policy

2. Land Use Designations (ie. parks, working forest)

3. Resource Management Planning (landscape unit)

4. Operational Planning (ie. site plans)

(Forest Stewardship Plans are really just detailed tenure documents which touch on all of the above levels)

Landscape unit planning


For Immediate ReleaseDecember 6, 2000

Board Releases Review of BC's Forest Planning

Victoria -Fundamental changes to the way forest development is planned in B.C. are recommended in a report released today by the Forest Practices Board. The report concludes the board's provincewide review of the forest development planning process. Forest development plans are prepared by individual forest companies and the Ministry of Forests' Small Business Forest Enterprise Program.

The board is recommending that government develop plans to manage a full range of forest resources at the "landscape" or "watershed" level, rather than at the cutblock level.

"These plans would provide strategies and measures for protecting all forest resources in the area of the plan," said board Chair Bill Cafferata. "The public would have to be consulted in development of the landscape unit plans, and would have the opportunity to comment on the objectives for the full range of forest resources including timber, water, fish, wildlife, and recreation.“

"Once these landscape unit plans are in place, foresters will not have to 'reinvent the wheel' every time they prepare a forest development plan. They can focus on proposing roads and cutblocks that meet the strategies and measures already agreed to in the landscape unit plan," said Cafferata.

Well that never happened

Well, that never happened

  • During the Great Purge of 2002, the planning function was largely removed from the Forest Service and a new ministry created: MSRM (later ILMB).

  • Planning moved from the District to the Regional (land use) level. Endless KBLUP debate ensued and landscape unit planning was all but forgotten. Though, in Kootenay Lake, with Mike Knapik’s help, we did do a few.

A bit of history

A Bit of History

  • 1987: “New Forestry” – Dr. Jerry Franklin (University of Washington) – ecosystem dynamics and stand-level retention

  • 1989-1992: B.C. Old Growth Strategy

  • 1990-1993: KL Timber Supply Review (#1) – included 10% old growth requirement, and also identified cutblock adjacency as a significant constraint on timber supply

  • 1994: KL old growth overview assessment (Brenda Herbison) – this, plus a composite Forest Development Plan, revealed a growing issue of fragmentation due to dispersed small cutblocks.

  • 1995: Harry Quesnel on old growth attributes

  • 1995: Biodiversity Guidebook (most of KL in deficit of OG targets)

  • 1994-1997: Singing Forest prompts first LU Plan – K21

  • 1997-2000: KL implements spatial draft OGMAs to address deficit issue, along with a harvest patch management system (size range)

Landscape unit planning

  • 1998: Chief Forester direction to consider ecological representation of old growth only to the subzone/variant level.

  • 1999: Landscape Unit Planning Guide (KL is one of 3 Districts to pilot this in BC; see our report)

  • 1997-2000: KL implements spatial draft “old seral patches” to address deficit issue, along with a harvest patch management system (size range)

  • 2001-2002: KB HLPO includes critical footnote “K” which allows old growth to be identified based on biophysical attributes rather than age

  • 2006: ILMB (Stew Clow) revises KL draft spatial OGMAs

Back to 1995

Back to 1995

  • During the “Singing Forest” issue, government (MoE and MoF) agreed to address the old growth issue in K21 using the newly released Biodiversity Guidebook.

  • The Guidebook included a recommendation to obtain proportionate representation by site series.

  • This meant that inoperable forest could not meet full old growth requirements.

  • Timber impacts in K21 were roughly 7% of THLB. In 1996, a study on Code related timber supply impacts assumed only 2.1% impact due to old growth.

  • So, Meadow Creek Cedar wrote to the Chief Forester complaining about this discrepancy. Old growth requirements varied between 9 and 28% across the province. A proportionate impact on THLB would have had a devastating impact, especially if there was no provision for a recruitment strategy in deficit units.

Landscape unit planning

  • So, we documented our approach, sent it upstairs, and waited for an answer.

  • All we received was a memo and an email which suggested that maybe we had done something wrong and the District Manager should decide what was appropriate.

  • Fortunately, the DM was made of sterner stuff, and told us to carry on.

  • Meanwhile, Meadow Creek Cedar harvested their first large block and the Woodlands Manager acknowledged the short-term timber supply assist.

Landscape unit planning

  • Then, a year later, guess what happened?

Well this didn t go over well

Well, this didn’t go over well

  • Granted, the timber supply impacts were real, but ecological representation had been a fundamental principle from 1987 onwards.

  • Plus, there were other problems in the Biodiversity Guidebook which needed attention (see Pollack et al 1997). The old and early seral targets were questionable at a number of levels. As a starting point they were fine, but they desperately needed to be revisited.

  • And this was not the only way to mitigate timber supply impacts. You could do so, and achieve patch targets (perhaps the most important LU objective of all) by going to an attribute-based definition of old growth rather than just age.

  • Plus, having a biologically defensible old growth strategy allowed us to practically eliminate adjacency constraints on short term timber supply.

But we soldiered on

But we soldiered on...

  • Licensees began to buy in to the overall concepts and benefits. Having agreement between MoE, MoF and licensees allowed us to carry on.

  • The OGMA layer is pretty much orphaned right now. Old growth and early seral patch analysis falls to licensee professionals to address under FRPA.

  • However, we continued to develop landscape unit “compilations of known information” for other strategic decision support purposes (ie. not just old growth).

  • These included K16 (public issues), K03 (public issues), K05 (Englishman Creek) and K18 (mountain caribou). They can be found in the “landscape unit plans” FTP site folder. Once compiled (and updated as necessary) they can serve many uses.

Landscape unit planning



Dale Anderson, Planning Officer

Mike Knapik, Forest Ecosystem Specialist

October 15, 1998


Out of 86 landscape unit/ecological subzone units in the Kootenay Lake Forest District, 73 presently fall short of old growth forest targets as per Biodiversity Guidebook. In order for harvesting to continue in the short term, it is necessary to develop a recruitment strategy which will allow old growth targets to be achieved over time.

Management of old growth forests has been a major issue in KLFD for well over ten years. A District study in 1994 confirmed that certain types of old growth forest (large contiguous valley-bottom types) were disappearing rapidly due to the fragmentation pattern of forest development which was occurring in the absence of an overall landscape-level strategy. This development pattern also implied higher development costs and reduced timber availability (as noted in the Timber Supply Review process of 1994-95); therefore it became a priority for KLFD to address the issue.

Work began in September of 1995, and the process has evolved considerably since then. The importance of an objective, attribute-based old growth patch inventory is now clear (Appendix I). In 1997, nine landscape units were inventoried in this manner by contract biologists, and licensees were instructed to avoid placing new development proposals in certain of the "old seral patches" which had been identified. This allowed development to be approved in other portions of these landscape units. This report includes a summary and update of landscape units which had previously been inventoried.

Landscape unit planning

Typical Old Growth Attributes

Area (hectares of Crown forest)

Age class distribution (within patch) 

Tree species composition

Site class

Base elevation (or elevation range) 


Slope (or slope range) 

Slope position (toe, mid, upper) 

Crown closure 

Presence of snags/dead tops

Coarse woody debris 

Stand health

Proportion of patch in riparian area 

Ecological representation

Proportion of patch in interior habitat 

Forested connectivity with rest of LU

Lichen loading (in caribou habitat) 

Known critical habitats/features

A simple process

A simple process

  • Helicopter assessments were preferred, but we used whatever was available depending on availability of funding

  • Candidate OGMAs were evaluated in terms of both biological value and timber impact.

  • It was simply a matter of taking the highest biological values and lowest timber impact candidate areas first, until targets were met.

  • By establishing THLB “budgets” based on aspatial old growth timber impacts, we alleviated licensee concerns with the process.

Landscape unit planning

Obtaining Old Growth THLB Budgets in K01:

ESSFwc4 (Target 1941 ha):

Age Class 9 NC: 37

Age Class 9 THLB: 200

Age Class 8 NC:3381 (1704 required to reach target)

THLB budget: 200 hectares (2.0%)

ICHdw (Target 419 ha):

Age Class 8+ NC: 52

Age Class 8+ THLB: 23

Age Class 7 NC: 0

Age Class 7 THLB: 0

Age Class 6 NC: 142

Age Class 6 THLB: 60

Age Class 5 NC: 242 (142 required to reach target)

THLB budget: 83 hectares (7.1%)

Tools for ogma id

Tools for OGMA ID

  • A reliable database with Crown Forest Land Base (CFLB) identified (to determine old growth targets)

  • A LU map showing CFLB, age classes, operability, BEC, and ownership.

  • Field Assessments (though in some cases airphotos were sufficient)

  • A final “old growth inventory” report

Landscape unit planning


Old Growth Patch Inventory

December 21, 2000

K07 comprises the Midge Creek, Wilson, and Heather Creek watersheds and the areas draining into the South Arm of Kootenay Lake from Irvine Creek to about 3 km south of the mouth of Midge Creek. The topography is steep with most drainages being deeply incised V-shaped valleys. Only in the upper reaches of Kutetl Creek is there an extensive area of subdued terrain. Riparian areas are generally very narrow apart from one area along Midge Creek near the confluence with Seeman Creek. Soils over much of the area are either very coarse or shallow. Very significant portions of the LU burned in 1940 and 1967, with large areas of the 1967 burn along the lake being dominated by brush fields. The only licensee operating in the LU is J.H. Huscroft Ltd. About 1/5 of the LU is comprised of the West Arm Wilderness Provincial Park, while about 1/3 is within the Taxation Tree Farm of Pluto Darkwoods Ltd. A Wildlife Management Area has been designated over the southeast portion; management objectives are focused on ungulates and grizzly bear . A tiny portion of K07 includes KBLUP mountain caribou habitat, but this is not considered significant (target of 96 ha). The Biodiversity Emphasis for K07 is Intermediate for the ESSFwc and ICHmw2 and Low for the ICHdw. Target hectares for old growth forest within K07 are as follows


SubzoneTarget Ha.Deficit/Surplus

ESSFwc (>250 yrs) 835 -693

ICHmw2(>250 yrs) 517 -408

ICHdw (>140 yrs) 313 -213

TOTAL OSPs: approximate area

SubzoneArea>80 yr




Landscape unit planning

  • OSP: 07-1 (Face North of Wilson Creek)

    SubzoneHa.>80 yr

    ICHmw2 ~250


    This patch runs from the lakeshore to about 1450 m. It consists of steep rocky faces with deeper soils on some of the more moderate slopes and in small moist draws between the rock outcrops. Slopes range from about 40 to 80%. Aspect is generally east. The major tree species found are Douglas-fir and larch, with minor amounts of lodgepole pine and deciduous in the ICHdw and Fd, Cw, (Lw) in the ICHmw2. There are significant amounts of Pl in the southern portion of the ICHmw2. Dense cedar regeneration can be seen in the deep soil areas of the area mapped as Age class 8 in the ICHdw. Cw and Hw regeneration is widespread in the ICHmw2. Most trees are likely under 25m tall. Vets and snags are largely absent except for the age class 8 (these appear associated with root rot centres), where there are also a few larch vets in the ICHdw. In the ICHmw2, there are few vets and moderate amounts of snags and coarse woody debris. Broken tops are low. Crown closure ranged from about 40 to 60% in the ICHdw and 60 to 70% in the ICHmw2, with about 80% of the forested area in closed canopy with the rest in patches of regen or open deciduous. The lakeshore is rocky with little riparian influence. The range of site series is narrow, almost exclusively drier than mesic in the ICHdw, likely more mesic sites in the ICHmw2. The age class mapping looked reasonable apart from the fact that the are just to the north of the patch that is mapped Age class 5 looks quite similar to the area mapped age class 7(ICHdw). In the ICHmw2, age class looked like 6 or 7 but there were about 15% of the area with patches that looked younger. The size of this patch was increased to include the area in the ICHdw to the northern LU boundary. This would then provide some connectivity to the age class 7 stands up Irvine Creek in the adjoining LU. As well, structural features in the area added (Forest cover age class 5 largely) were equivalent to areas in the southern portion of this OSP. Coarse woody debris is low in the ICHdw and moderate in the ICHmw2. According to current operability lines, forest in 07-1 is 100% operable LU connectivity low to moderate, runs from lakeshore to ESSF. Interior condition is low due to the interspersion of rock outcrops in the ICHdw and moderate in the ICHmw2. Site productivity would be generally low for the ICHdw and moderate for the ICHmw2. No major forest health problems were noted – minor Armillaria possible. No roads or harvesting is found. The railway runs along the lakeshore. Special features include rock outcrops, lakeshore, and pictographs. A portion of this OSP was suggested as a candidate by J.H. Huscroft Ltd.

    Initial old growth ranking: High.

    Probably the best candidate for capturing old ICHdw in this LU. Some reasonable attributes in the ICHmw2 but patchy.

Early seral patch analysis

Early Seral Patch Analysis

  • Amazingly, the targets for old growth and early seral patch size distribution are still unchanged from 1995.

  • Some people tended to view early seral patch sizes as hard targets. We did not.

  • The Code established a 40 hectare maximum cutblock size which could be exceeded with an ecological justification.

  • The early seral patch analysis (ESPA) was developed to provide this. However, it was used more for tracking purposes than as a hard target.

  • There were other ecological justifications for introducing a range of harvest patch sizes, especially if forest health was an issue.

  • We encountered relatively little opposition to the introduction of large cutblocks. We also found that it was not always a simple thing to find a suitable location given all the resource values to consider.

Landscape unit planning

Landscape Planning - Kootenay Lake Forest District

Early Seral Patch Analysis

November, 2006


The term "patch" can be used in a number of contexts - silvicultural system, landscape planning, etc. In Kootenay Lake District, the main "patch" issue revolves around determining the existing early seral patch size distribution within a landscape unit's BEC subzone/variant.


This "early seral patch analysis" (ESPA) has been necessary in order to implement a range of harvest patch sizes (as per Biodiversity Guidebook and Landscape Unit Planning Guide). For most of our LU's/variants, the size ranges are 0-40 hectares, 40-80 hectares, and 80-250 hectares. Once you know the percentage of your early seral area in each category, you have an idea of which size ranges are below targets and therefore a rationale for approving harvest units in that size range.


A standardized approach is unnecessary, provided basic principles are followed, such as that of “best available information” and collaboration in shared landscape units. Generally, an ESPA will be conducted by whichever licensee is proposing a cutblock greater than 40 hectares.

A suggested starting point is to obtain the last ESPA conducted for the landscape unit. A map should be generated which clearly identifies the Crown forested landbase (including parks) and the existing early seral patches. This is then examined by the assessor who decides whether openings should be considered separate, or part of a larger patch.

The final products are an updated early seral patch map which shows the patches and their size categories, and a report which provides documentation of methodology and rationale for choices made. The report typically includes the existing early seral patch size distribution figures, and also those which are expected upon completion of the development in question.

The ESPA should be broken down by BEC subzone/variant rather than by NDT. At the present time, landscape planning in KLFD is based on old BEC linework.

Connectivity issues

Connectivity Issues

  • This was perhaps the most confusing issue to address.

  • Forest Ecosystem Networks (FENS) were popular (and mentioned in the Biodiversity Guidebook) for a few years, but tended to reflect a static forest (riparian, inoperable and other constrained areas).

  • Issues of fragmentation appeared to be best addressed through an old growth strategy and a range of early seral patch sizes. Any known information on wildlife travel routes, like low elevation passes, could be addressed on a site specific basis.

  • Much of the “connectivity” literature seemed more relevant to major land use changes and “island” habitat

A great disappointment

A Great Disappointment

  • Of all the planning work we undertook in Kootenay Lake over the last 20 years, landscape unit planning showed the most promise.

  • In 2002/03, responsibility shifted to Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management (later ILMB)

  • ILMB has indicated that LU Planning is a very low priority at this time.

  • In the absence of a workable resource planning framework, that may be just as well. Perhaps in time... Meanwhile, it is still a useful tool for use in the professional reliance/due diligence realm.

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