2015 Silviculture Challenge: Helicopter Logging at UBC’s Loon Lake Lodge

Two weeks ago, on March 6 and 7, six SEFS students headed up to Canada to compete against the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the 9th Annual International Silviculture Challenge. Professor Emeritus David Ford and former UW Professor Bruce Larson, who is now at UBC, first organized the contest, and this year marked the ninth consecutive year the two schools have come together in the spirit of academic competition. Host sites alternate between the United States and Canada, and UBC staged the 2015 challenge in the 10,000-acre Malcolm Knapp Research Forest (MKRF).

Silviculture Challenge

Audrey Riddell, one of four undergrads on the SEFS crew.

Professor Greg Ettl, who coaches the SEFS crew, started recruiting his team about six weeks ago. He prioritizes undergrads who have taken a silviculture class but often mixes in one or two master’s students. This year’s team ended up featuring four undergrads, Jack Armstrong, Colin Kirkmire, Emily Richmond and Audrey Riddell, and two grad students, Hollis Crapo and Ben Roe.

For the competition, each university divides its students into two teams of three to tackle a particular silviculture assignment, and this year’s challenge ranked among the most difficult and comprehensive to date, says Professor Ettl.

The core of the challenge was to plan a harvest on a highly sensitive site next to the Loon Lake Lodge. The lodge hosts students and corporate retreats, with many high-paying clients expressing some concern over viewing harvested forest clearings. So the students’ task was to develop a harvest strategy that would net a profit of $100,000 for UBC while also preserving the aesthetics of the site. Due to the topography and accessibility constraints, the site would have to be harvested by helicopter and hauled across the lake to landings.

The teams had 24 hours to visit the site and prepare a plan for the 60-acre block—including the short-term helicopter logging and also a medium- and long-term silvicultural plan—and then present their findings on Saturday to a panel of three judges: Bryce Bancroft, principal of Symmetree Consulting in Victoria; Hélène Marcoux, instructor in sustainable resource management at the British Columbia Institute of Technology; and Paul Lawson, director of UBC Research Forests.

The Site
Located near Maple Ridge, B.C. (about 60 kilometers east of Vancouver), the MKRF is a mixture of 145-year-old western hemlock, western red cedar and Douglas-fir, with some remnant old-growth veterans tucked into the mix. The forest is managed by UBC for a variety of research, social, ecological and timber needs, and it’s also home to the Gallant Enterprises sawmill, which specializes in high value-added wood products, and the Loon Lake Research and Education Center, which provides wilderness recreation and education opportunities.

Elevation throughout the MKRF is highly variable, ranging from 1,000 meters to near sea level, and several other specific site conditions complicated the assignment—most notably a steep slope of up to 60 percent, and proximity to the lake, which provides the lodge’s drinking water supply. The section to be harvested also sits in direct view of lodge visitors from the new Bentley Dining Hall.

Silviculture Challenge

Loon Lake in the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest.

The Results
Professor Ettl says all four groups produced excellent harvest plans given the constraints, but one of the teams from UBC—with students Carrie Huang, Anita Li and Mikayla Roberts—ended up edging ahead for first place in a very tight competition.

The SEFS teams had prescribed a general thin through most of the stand to minimize observable impacts and preserve the overall aesthetic feel of the forest for lodge visitors. The winning team from UBC won on a plan that involved patch cuts and then snap-and-fly selection logging of high-quality cedar logs to reach the $100,000 threshold. This group also offered ideas for future research in the stand, ways to possibly involve visitors in the site and its operations, and an idea for increased recreational value.

Despite the result, the SEFS team thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “I learned a lot,” says undergrad Emily Richmond, whose first experience with silviculture was as part of the Pack Forest Summer Crew. “I’m in the wildlife conservation focus of ESRM, so I focused on the aesthetics and wildlife aspect of the challenge. It was a huge learning experience for me and gave me some insight into what I might have to incorporate in my wildlife endeavors in terms of forestry management.”

Silviculture Challenge

With steep slopes up to 60 percent, Loon Lake proved an especially challenging site for the competition, but the SEFS team thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Hollis Crapo, a Master of Forest Resources student, came away feeling equally positive. “I enjoyed myself immensely,” he says. “Each team had a slightly different approach to their prescription, and what ultimately decided the winner was their ability to tie the project back to larger cultural values, both of the region and the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest. It reminded us that we don’t do forestry in a vacuum. Especially if we’re working as a public entity, we all have to deal with a social license to practice forestry, and the little things we can do to tie our work to others in our community, work done in the past, and work done in the future, the better we’ll be  able to remain sustainable in our practices.”

After this year’s results, UBC now holds a 6-3 edge, but there’s no time for licking wounds. Next year, SEFS will be the host, and the UW silviculture program is already planning for the challenge—which will be 10-year anniversary of the contest!

Photos © Courtesy of Greg Ettl.

SEFS Students Honored with College Scholarships

The College of the Environment recently announced the winners of the 2014-2015 Dean’s Office Scholarships, and we were thrilled—though certainly not surprised—to see six of our students among the honorees! Check out the specific scholarships and recipients below:

Nancy Wilcox Endowed Scholarship
This scholarship is made possible by the generosity of former UW Provost Phyllis Wise, who established it to support students pursuing degrees in the College of the Environment. Dr. Wise named the endowment in honor and memory of her late sister, Nancy E. Wang Wilcox, a middle school teacher who tried to develop the minds of young adolescents using creative and innovative ways of learning.  It is this legacy that inspired Provost Wise to establish this endowment to carry on her sister’s commitment to helping others achieve their educational goals.

SEFS Recipients: Dana Chapman, a sophomore ESRM major, and Emily Richmond, a junior ESRM major.


College of the Environment Scholarship
This scholarship is made possible by the generosity of donors. The scholarship was created to support both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in the College of the Environment.

SEFS Recipients: graduate students Benjamin Antonius, Benjamin Roe and Maria Carrere Zamanillo, and sophomore Natalie Pollett.

Congratulations to all of you, and keep up the great work!

Society of American Foresters National Convention

Last week, SEFS graduate student Ben Roe attended the Society of American Foresters (SAF) National Convention in Charleston, S.C. He presented a poster, “Assessing the Impact of Timber Legality Policies on U.S. Wood Importers,” which detailed his research on domestic and international policies that attempt to limit the import of illegally harvested timber. His study looks at the perceptions of U.S. wood importers and the effect of policies on their business practices, as well as the effects on foreign exporters.

Ben Roe

Ben Roe presenting his poster at the convention.

Roe, who is earning a joint master’s in public affairs, also represented the University of Washington as the District 1 student representative to the SAF Student Executive Committee. As part of this role, he participated in discussions on how SAF can better assist students and local chapters. In addition, he was able to spend time with a number of UW alumni who attended the convention.

Other presenters from SEFS included Professor Gordon Bradley and Luke Rogers, and SEFS Director Tom DeLuca also represented the school at the National Association of University Forest Research Programs, held in advance of the SAF convention.

Amanda Davis, the SEFS graduate advisor, staffed an information booth at the convention. She says she dispelled a few myths about the Pacific Northwest and also generated quite a bit of excitement about the Peace Corps Master’s International Program at SEFS. She was happy to report, as well, the giant Coulter pine cone survived the trip and was a great lure to the table.

As the final event, Davis and Director DeLuca hosted a small alumni reception. Among the alumni in attendance were Bob Alverts, Ann Forest Burns, Don Hanley, Denver Hospodarsky, Jim McCarter, Steve McConnell, Phyllis Reed, Eric Sucre and Paul Wagner, who was given the SAF Field Forester Award for District 1.

Not bad for an event 3,000 miles from campus, and next year’s convention will be a lot closer to home in Salt Lake City!

Photo © Courtesy of Ben Roe.