February 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
Model multi-use forest
The privately owned Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, under the direction of Peter Schleifenbaum, is steadily working away at resurrecting its forest base, but at the same time it is a model of the multi-use forest, offering everything from forest canopy tours to submarine rides.
By Paul MacDonald
The Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, a 60,000-acre parcel of land bordering central Ontario’s “Cottage Country,” could easily be described as one of the best examples of a multiple-use forest in the province. And the actual forest component of the reserve, under the direction of owner and general manager Peter Schleifenbaum, is well on its way to being more of a productive forest.
Schleifenbaum’s father, German businessman Adolf Schliefenbaum, purchased the land in the early 1960s. Peter Schleifenbaum recalls visits to the Haliburton area when he was a youngster. “I always liked being out in the forest, and thought the lakes and the bush were great,” he says. He also shared a sentiment common to just about everyone in the forest and every true-blooded Canadian: “I hated the mosquitoes.”
The reserve today offers a wealth of activities for outdoors enthusiasts. Wilderness adventure activities include a Wolf Centre, Walk in the Clouds forest canopy tour, groomed snowmobile trails, mountain biking, dog sledding, hiking, astronomy, and wildlife observation. The latest offering came in 2004, when the Haliburton Forest put its own small submarine into service, taking visitors on submersible tours of the history-laden lakes. Through the summer, it has hundreds of camp spots available.
During the winter, they operate the world’s only, wholly-private snowmobiling operation. It has been so successful that they have had to limit the number of machines to 100 per day on the extensive trail network.
At the centre of all this, however, are the efforts Schleifenbaum and his employees are making to resurrect the forestry base. Schleifenbaum, who studied forestry in Germany and is an RPF— and a self-described “hands-on manager”— has taken on the task with gusto.
Among its achievements is being Canada’s first FSC certified forest.
When the land was purchased in the 1960s, it had been logged out. There was a sawmill on site, but forest inventories from the previous owner, Weldwood of Canada, indicated there was not enough good quality sawlogs left to operate the mill, which eventually closed.
Logging in the region dates back to the 1860s, when prized large pine, hemlock and spruce timber was taken out. Subsequent rail and road links opened up the market for hardwood from the region.
A number of harvests have been made of the Haliburton Forest since then, and the trees have grown back. But Schleifenbaum notes their challenge now is not in the quantity of trees, but the quality of those trees.
“It wasn’t that the bush was depleted in volume—the volume was there,” he says. “The quality of the timber was just horrible.” Under previous operators, the high-value timber had been taken out, often leaving behind a remaining forest that was damaged or scarred.
It’s been a big task resurrecting the forest, and it’s not completed yet. “You have to have a lot of patience,” says Schleifenbaum. “Trees take a hundred years to grow, so if you want to grow another crop, you have to look beyond a generational horizon. Coming from a European background, it’s a lot easier to do.”
Not that European forestry practices are necessarily always a model to follow, he emphasizes. “I’m very aware of the bad European examples. Today, when European foresters come over here, they complain about how bad forestry is in North America, and what bad attitudes North Americans have. I point them straight back to what has happened in Europe, especially in Germany and Sweden, and the monocultures they have of even-aged, non-native species, and they shut up pretty quickly.”
These European forest managers, often used to plantations, are “flabbergasted,” Schleifenbaum says, at how natural a managed forest can be, its diversity and how many values it can provide.
On the timber side of its values, most of the logging in the Haliburton Forest is done employing manual falling and cable skidders, by two local contractors.
The contractors actually work with Tembec, which has a hardwood mill in Huntsville, about an hour away. Schleifenbaum describes it as a “triangular” relationship, with Haliburton Forest contracting to provide a set volume of wood to Tembec, who then works directly with two local contractors, Troy Barry and Larry Miscio. Using cable skidders, they haul the timber to roadside or the landing, where it is then processed.
The beauty of having the forest used for recreational purposes it that it has helped establish and maintain an extensive road network that can also be used by the loggers. “Roadbuilding costs are not really part of the harvesting equation for us,” says Schleifenbaum.
Both contractors know the Haliburton Forest well, having worked there for years.“The contractors have great familiarity with forests and they know what we expect of them. But we also have direct contact with them to make sure their operations meet or exceed our standards.” The standards are high, since the Haliburton Forest is FSC certified.
What does Schleifenbaum expect of the contractors? “We want good productivity, clean, safe and low damage operations. We want to minimize rutting and damage to residual stands. We do not accept anything greater than five per cent major damage, which is half the provincial guideline. Five per cent is really the ceiling. We like to see less, two to three per cent.”
Generally, they meet with the contractors at the beginning of the season to review the work ahead, and are then in touch with them on a regular basis, at least weekly, through the season.
“There are always minor issues or questions that they may have, but major problems are very rare.” Haliburton has its own professional forester who, among other responsibilities, oversees the timber harvesting.
Logging generally takes place through the summer and fall, which helps balance things out for the contractors, who are usually busy with harvesting elsewhere during the winter months. It also balances things out with other activities in the forest, since winter logging would interfere with their snowmobiling and dog sledding operations.
In terms of harvesting, about 80 per cent is single tree selection, with 15 per cent shelterwood, and only five per cent clearcut. And those are small clearcuts. They consider anything greater than the diameter of two tree lengths to be a clearcut.
They also have one horse logging operation, which Schleifenbaum emphasizes is not the result of some “romantic notion.” It is a good fit with the overall logging operation. “It works nicely because it cleans up the edges, the riparian areas, the small pockets where it isn’t really viable to float a skidder into.” They also have a small Rotobec forwarder to help out with reducing the travel time of getting logs out with horse logging. “The horses can be efficient 300 to 500 feet out, and 1,000 feet if you really want to push it,” he says.
About 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes of timber comes out of the Haliburton Forest in an average year. About half is sawlogs and the other half is suitable for pulp or firewood. A small percentage, one to two per cent, would be hardwood veneer.
Regarding the clean-up of the forest, real progress has been made. “In some areas, we are going through the second proper clean-up cut, and we can see the improvement over the first cut done in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” notes Schleifenbaum. The long-term plan is to get the forest to a completely healthy state, where harvesting can be done every 10 years or so. This would involve taking smaller logs out, doing any other prescribed adjustments and generally maintaining the forest in a highly productive state.
“We hope to be there in five to ten years. At that point we’ll have nice cuts where the garbage forest has been removed, and where 70 to 80 per cent of the volume will be sawlogs, and veneer will be up to five per cent. It will be a huge difference from what we started with.”
All of this work is being done within the standards set by the FSC. The forest opted for FSC accreditation in 1999, a move that received little approval from the industry, Schleifenbaum notes. “We were highly criticized for going FSC at the time. There was a feeling then that FSC was not applicable to industrial forestlands, but I think people have a different view of that now.”
Schleifenbaum adds that while he remains a staunch supporter of FSC, “in terms of the administration surrounding the standards, I am probably one of their fiercest critics.
“That’s my biggest beef. There is a lot of paperwork, some of it is redundant, and there is duplication of effort. To me, the effort should be focused on the landbase, to do a good job out there, with a minimum of documentation.” He adds that FSC is not alone in this regard, that other certification programs also seem to be administration heavy.
“They need to be receptive because when they come around to re-certify, the landowners may just shrug their shoulders and say it’s not worth their while.” And while the cost of certification was supposed to be borne by the consumer, that has turned out to be a non-starter.
“This has not happened and will not happen,” says Schleifenbaum. “If someone is looking for 2x4s at Home Depot, and the certified wood is 10 per cent more than wood without certification, they are always going to go for the cheaper one.”
People’s intentions and actions in this area can differ dramatically, he notes. “If you took a survey on Bloor Street in Toronto and asked people if they are willing to pay a little more to be environmentally conscious, people will yes, by all means. But when it comes to actually having to pay that extra in the home improvement store, that doesn’t ring true anymore.”
He cites as an example the small, but successful, Eco-Log cabins that they manufacture.
Using a Kara Master LS 240 circular saw set-up—overseen by probably the only female sawmill operator in the country, Shannon Neville,—they manufacture and market upwards of 15 log home kits a year. With hemlock from the Haliburton Forest and other local forests, they cut about a million board feet a year for the cabins. “But we did not sell a single cabin kit based on the FSC logo,” says Schleifenbaum. “To me, that was astounding.” They have since dropped the FSC logo on their kits.
The core issue, he says, is that there is a cost to the forest owner or user to producing certified wood, “and that cost has to be kept to a minimum and that isn’t happening.”
Certification has become a miniindustry in itself, with consultants and specialists, and appears to be doing much better than the forest industry itself, he says.
The last time Haliburton Forest re-certified, three years ago, they took a very hard look at whether it was worthwhile. They came out of it not convinced they would get certified again, based on the prohibitive costs, and the low value certification brings to the business, says Schleifenbaum.
That said, however, he adds that he remains open on how to take a more cost-effective approach to certification.
“Certification protects the social integrity of communities and the health of the forest. It’s still very worthwhile.”
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