Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
Jenji Konishi

Jenji KonishiIn the 1920’s, my parents came to Canada from Tattori prefecture in Japan.  I was born on Mayne Island, on the West Coast of BC. 

In December of 1941, Japan declared war against the United States by bombing Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.  This resulted in both Canada and the USA declaring that persons of Japanese ancestry residing on the West Coast be relocated, early in 1942, to internment camps in the interior region of BC, Alberta, and then other western provinces.

I grew up on a farm near Salmon Arm.  As soon as I was able to, I helped my Dad and Mom in growing hot house tomatoes and strawberries.  During my early teens, summer work was in a portable sawmill making railroad ties.  In those days, they didn’t have the types of forest tenures and licenses as we have today; so many operators had little sawmills out in the bush, lateral view of adult spruce beetle BCMoFR photographand there was lots of employment! 

I attended the University of British Columbia (UBC) after high school and senior matriculation.  I enrolled in engineering, but found that I just couldn’t handle the mathematics.  So I thought, “I’ve worked on farms, and in sawmills, so I could try forestry.”  I knew other people that had gone into forestry, and they experienced enjoyment and satisfaction in this field. 

After graduating from UBC with a Bachelor of Science Forestry degree in 1961, I joined the Inventory Branch of the Provincial Forestry Department in Victoria.  But after two years in Inventory, I wanted to gain experience in silviculture so I was transferred to the Prince George Forest District in 1962.  This was the beginning of the ‘forest boom’ in the central interior region of BC.  Clearing of the Bennett Dam reservoir was underway, and approval for the construction of three pulp mills in Prince George had been announced.

One of the first assignments I had, after arriving in Prince George, was to assess the windthrow damage following the path of ‘Hurricane Frieda’ in November 1962.  This hurricane blew down many trees along its path, starting from Squamish, through Bowen Island Provincial Park, through Prince George, and into the Bennett Dam Reservoir area.  This event marked Fringe Blowdown Mackenzie Forest District Summer 1997 BCMoFR photographthe change over the next three decades where ‘endemic’ populations of both Spruce and Pine Bark Beetles became ‘epidemic’.  At any of the openings in the logging pattern, fresh ‘blowdown’ would provide the ideal food supply to increase bark beetle populations.  The result was a continuum of salvage timber sales resulting from Bark Beetle damage.  Over this period of time, the effects of global warming also assisted the build-up of the Bark Beetle populations, in that prolonged winter cold spells, which could freeze-out and kill the beetle populations, no longer occur.

Early in 1970, I transferred from Prince George to the Reforestation Division in Duncan for the Province.  I filled Bruce Devitt’s old job when he moved to Victoria as Manager of Nurseries and Tree Seeds for the Province.  My job now involved administering the forest nurseries on Vancouver Island, and the Tree Seed Center in Duncan.

The Duncan Nursery was established in 1946, and the tree seed extractory, testing, and storage facilities established in the 1950’s.  The nursery was adjacent to Somenos Creek, and became exposed to periodic flooding in the 1970’s to the 1980’s. Bruce Devitt and Mike Meagher recalled significant floods as early as 1960. Rob Bowden-Green recalled putting on chest waders along with Keith Illingworth and pushing a small rowboat through the cone sheds to rescue the sacks containing paper bags of individual tree collections of lodgepole pine cones – part of the 1967 Research Branch pine provenance studies. I recall wading through the water to turn off the electrical power on Christmas day.  Between 1979 and 1984 there were several floods; the worst of these being in 1981.  During this year it Nursery Floodingflooded three times with over a foot of water in the plant and the loss of 15 days of production time.  On one of these occasions the plumbing froze in the extraction plant because the heat and power had to be  turned off.

With the acceleration of the Provincial Reforestation Program during this period, it was decided that the Province relocate the Seed Centre to a more strategic location in Langley on the Lower Mainland.  The majority of tree seedlings were being produced in the Lower Mainland and interior regions of the Province.  After preparing plans, and a proposal for a new seed centre facility, approval was granted in 1984, and a new facility was built from 1985 to 1986.

With the expansion of the Provincial Tree Planting Program (in 1970, twenty-five million trees were planted with the goal to plant seventy-five million by 1975), it was essential that seed of the best genetic quality be used for reforestation.  The current practice was to plant natural stand seed collections prior to actual logging taking place in areas to be reforested.  For some species, especially for interior Spruce, it was difficult to obtain adequate natural stand seed; owing to cone crop periodicity.  For this species, only one collectable crop may occur over a ten year period.

To assist in assuring an adequate supply of seed of the best genetic quality, a tree improvement program was implemented for the coastal forest areas in the 1960’s, and a similar program for the interior region in 1979.  This represented a cooperation arrangement between the Province and forest companies with long-term forest tenure agreements (ie. Tree Farm Licenses).

In 1975, I was appointed as Manager of Seed Production for the Reforestation Division.  This entailed administration of the Provincial Tree Seed Centre Operations.  The seed orchard establishment and management were duties I continued until my retirement in 1994.  With staff under my direction, much time was devoted to locating the best seed orchard sites for both the coastal and interior region, and co-ordinating work loads between forest companies and the Province.

Seed orchard establishment entailed using the best parent trees, based on progeny test work done in the field by forest geneticists, and incorporating these into seed orchards on sites which produce cone crops regularly.  For example:  On the Coast, the Saanich Peninsula, and in the Interior (the north Okanagan area in the vicinity of Vernon); are climactically best suitable for frequent cone and seed production for most of our major timber species.

Currently (2009), at least fifty-five percent of the approximately two hundred million trees grown annually for replanting provincially, orginate from seed orchards.

So when we talk about accomplishments, we (Bruce Devitt and I) can now say we were involved in the beginning and early development of all this, and we can see that much of it is ongoing.  For Bruce, having been involved in the Cowichan Valley, he has seen the trees harvested there already that he was first doing plantation survival studies on.  They are now establishing a third generation forest on many areas near Cowichan Lake on good sites, as trees can be harvested after fifty years.

There has been huge progress from when I first joined the Ministry of Forests in 1961.  On of the most significant changes was in forest nursery seedling in open fields.  By the 1990’s, we were one hundred percent into container seedling production in greenhouses, together with open compounds for species; such as Lodgepole Pine, which could be grown outside without the benefit of greenhouse cover.

Kokisilah NurseryOn the tree improvement side, the progress has been on the establishment of second generation seed orchards where only progeny-tested, genetically-improved stocks are used for seed production on our best growing sites.

In the areas of disappointments and challenges, two items come to mind:  In terms of disappointments, the major forest company ownerships have changed too frequently in recent times (1990s to 2000+).  This has resulted in a lack of continuity to meet sustainable yield forestry objectives on an ongoing basis.  In the central interior region, the Spruce and Pine Beetle epidemics have created a situation which has resulted in over-harvesting (ie. exceeding the allowable annual harvests for this area).  To meet this challenge, we need to examine ways and means of utilizing more deciduous species, such as Aspen, Birch, and Black Cottonwood which could be harvested on a shorter rotation than the current conifer species.  We must also reduce the export of raw logs for manufacturing industry to produce more ‘value added’ forest products, in addition to our standard ‘two by four and dimension lumber products’.