Who’s speaking at the Woodlot Conference?

The 2023 Woodlot Conference and AGM is just around the corner! Woodlotters from around the province are converging in Cranbrook from October 26 to 28 to dig deeper into the issues of forest resiliency and meaningful engagement with First Nations. It’s notable that there are licensees coming from every forest region in BC.

With a lineup of 25 speakers throughout the event, this conference is sure to have something for everyone! 

“I am looking forward to the conference because the timing couldn’t be better. Learning about engagement in woodlots and being part of resilient ecosystems could not be more important,” says Gord Chipman, General Manager of the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations. “The last two months of wildfires exceeded all predictions and it brings up the question – what does the future have in store for us? I think we should go into 2024 with plans to manage the way to resilient ecosystems. Let’s do this!”

Kicking off the conference on Thursday night is TED-talk famous Dr. Paul Hessburg, a renowned landscape ecologist with the USDA Forest Service from Wenatchee, WA. Paul will speak about landscape resilience mechanisms and his research as an ecologist within the Pacific Northwest. 

His work has shifted the frame of reference from the stands to landscapes and their cross-connected pattern-process relations, transforming the discussion from ‘Which trees should we leave in this stand?’ to ‘How do we create patterns of forest and non-forest conditions, and of forest structure and composition on the landscape that will better adapt conditions to shifting climatic and disturbance regimes?’

Paul will speak about what makes landscapes resilient to wildfires and climate change and how woodlot owners can apply practical management concepts in their woodlot. In 2022 and 2023, he consulted with the BC Forest Practices Board to assist them with articulating new practices and considerations for managing large landscapes.

On Friday, woodlotters will head out to, well, the woods. With 3 different field tour sites, attendees will visit two woodlots and one Wildfire Risk Reduction site near Cranbrook, with a variety of speakers at each location representing industry, Ministry of Forests, BC Wildfire Service, FESBC and FireSmart. 

There are two panel discussions on Saturday. Starting after lunch, Kevin Webber, Federation of BC Woodlot Associations’ Board Vice President, will moderate a discussion with panelists Garry Merkel, a member of the Tahltan Nation and a professional forester, and Dr. Marcella LaFever, whose work includes investigating Indigenous storytelling as a communicative practice in public dialogue. 

This panel will focus on engagement between Woodlot Licensees and First Nations, specifically how to build relationships, with the understanding that woodlot licensees are generally small operators. Essentially, how can woodlot licensees engage with First Nations to develop effective and meaningful relationships? 

Next up on Saturday afternoon is a panel discussion about resiliency in our forest ecosystem and what role small scale forestry has in landscape level management. FESBC’s Brian Watson will guide the discussion with Ken Day and Jeff McWilliams.

The big question is: How can woodlot licensees adapt to be resilient when faced with the realities of wildfire, wildland urban interface and climate change?

Also in the lineup of speakers over the two days are Blair Falconer with TD Wealth, Mike Simpson talking about Carbon Credits, Rick Walters with BC Safety Council and Keith Atkinson and Garnet Mierau speaking about audits, Visual Landscape Management and wildfires.

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