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Les Kiss

Vice President, Forestry, Coast Forest Products Association

With 40 years of work experience, I have learned a few lessons

Recently I’ve been asked, “What have you learned with over 40 years of coastal forestry work experience?” After some reflection, what follows are my thoughts.

Some would say getting older gives you increased perspective and wisdom. I can say with certainty, the coastal forestry business has changed a great deal in the last 40 years, but more in its form than in its fundamentals.

In the early sixties, as a young teenager, I remember climbing fir trees on Hill Sixty between Duncan and Lake Cowichan gingerly swinging from tree top to tree top picking cones and getting paid well on volume of bushels picked. In the ensuing years I gained not only wisdom, but some excess weight so there were no more tree tops for me. Today, though we still need seeds for the many tree species being planted on the coast.

In the late sixties I worked in a sawmill pulling lumber off the backend of a green chain. The mill no longer exists, and green chains have now been replaced with automatic sorters.

In the early seventies I ran base lines using a compass, an Abney level, and a 200-foot steel chain. Mastering how to roll one of those chains up was an art. All field and tree measurements were recorded on paper (waterproof) with pencil. We no longer use base lines or steel chains, and are moving from aerial photo interpretation to LIDAR, and we measure distance in metres on tablets and computers.

In the mid to late seventies I had the pleasure of measuring stream reaches on the Tofino flats with the beginnings of the Save Our Salmon movement. You could buy a vacant lot on Chesterman Beach for roughly $2,500 at the time. So much for wisdom, I never bought one.

Back in the early nineties, a clearcut, dubbed, “The Black Hole,” located just south of the junction between Tofino and Ucluelet was the site of one of the largest public blockades in Canadian history. I would challenge anyone to find the site today. It is now a sea of green; a beautiful regenerated second growth forest.

In early 2004, the coast was introduced to the Market Pricing System (MPS) by the Government of British Columbia.  This replaced the previous Comparative Value Pricing model, which, itself replaced an even earlier Rothery System. Regardless of system, establishing value, cost and a reasonable approach to share the resource rent between government and industry is a needed fundamental.

Also in 2004, BC enabled the Forest and Range Practices Act, a professional reliance model that replaced the overly prescriptive based Forest Practices Code. Professional reliance is premised on government establishing broad resource objectives and forest professionals being held accountable for results. The implications of climate change and carbon on forest management will require adaptive management, innovation, and continuous improvement from all forest professionals.

All in all, the general take-away is a forester and the forest sector must be flexible to changes which include dealing with shifting forest management priorities, ever changing popular political and environmental expectations, while utilizing forests for dozens of other uses.

I would also suggest one should believe in what he or she is doing and remember to do the right thing with colleagues.  And always, always provide quality outcomes. No excuses or shortcuts!

On a professional level, I have enjoyed being part of a great Coast Forest team and believe we have played a significant, positive role in the ever-changing coastal forest management and forest products business.


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