» Ecosystem-Based Forestry Management Ecotrust Canada
Currently, forestry in British Columbia is largely about the timber that can be harvested, with most forest lands managed with only the economy in mind — the dollar value of the timber market. We strongly believe, however, that quantifying, valuing and planning for all the ecological and social values inherent in forest lands must be part of the model for the future health and sustainability of both forests and communities.

To achieve, and balance, ecological resilience and ongoing human wellbeing, we must change the way people view their forest lands and take control of forest land management, encouraging the adoption of ecosystem based forestry management (EBM). New tenure models are needed to create innovation in the system, models which ensure that true financial, environmental and social costs are factored into decisions.

With this in mind, our work in the forestry sector aims to:

  • Introduce the concept that forest management must be about more than timber management;
  • Prove that managing for multiple values on a large landscape level is a better business model;
  • Promote Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) certification and forest of origin traceability;
  • Promote new tenure models.

Enabling ecosystem based management means taking a holistic approach to forestry, through finding viable alternatives and creating streams of revenue from a range of forest resources that collectively make a viable business for the land or tenure holder.

Activities to this end include:

  • Modelling the anticipated business and ecological impact of managing for multiple ecosystem values – carbon, water, recreation, non-timber forest products (NTFP) – on existing tenures, and demonstrating, over time, how it works;
  • Working with forest land holders and managing tenures;
  • Working with First Nation communities to help design a forestry model and tenure that better addresses their interests;
  • Growing our group FSC® certification program for smaller tenure holders and chain of custody businesses;
  • Engaging with and promoting community forest tenures;
  • Creating public awareness and consumer pressure through the Thisforest traceability program;
  • Writing about our ideas, including within policy arenas.

What is EBM, exactly?

To understand our work in EBM, it is first necessary to define what EBM is. Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) is an adaptive management approach to managing human activities that seeks to ensure the coexistence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems (be they forest, land or water-based) and healthy human communities. The intent is to maintain ecosystems in such a way that indigenous species and ecological processes can be sustained while supporting, even improving, human well-being.

EBM acknowledges the role of humans as an integral part of the ecosystem, and alterations to ecosystems are accepted as necessary to produce the things that people value. Human uses and alterations must, however, be within the limits of what the ecosystem can produce and sustain without loss of diversity or functions. The main concept of EBM is to manage for associated organisms instead of individual species, placing more emphasis on what is left behind before deciding what to remove. To achieve this, EBM uses science-based decision making, traditional and local knowledge, engagement of community members, on-going monitoring, and adaptive planning.

Our work in EBM

Ecotrust Canada has, for a number of years, been working on developing alternative business models for forest lands on both private lands and Crown lands, where multiple revenue streams are investigated as an option to move away from a complete reliance on timber harvesting. To do this, we consider the existing ownership, land base, and forest cover on traditionally managed lands and look at the potential future timber harvest and alternative resource options, with a view to both long and short term needs and potential.

From this assessment, we work to identify potential locations of forest that could be
managed under a multiple resource scenario to build biodiversity and landscape values that will complement a focus on community development. Then, working on a foundation of some agreed upon scenario of timber harvesting, biodiversity protection and alternative resource development, we model forward timber and carbon flows along with other resource values to provide data to base economic assessment upon. Strategies vary depending on the specific land parcels, but revolve around low intensity timber harvesting focused on value creation and ecosystem goods and services, including:

  • forest carbon offsets or bio-fuel supply through wood waste;
  • conservation covenants;
  • non-timber forest products;
  • recreation and education opportunities;
  • low impact, sustainable residential development.

The objective is to build long term sustain-able revenue flows which are less impacted by market fluctuations and more able to take advantage of favourable situations ithout negatively impacting future options. With a team of professional foresters on staff and a wide range of associates and partners available for specific technical help, we are well-equipped to work through any activities needed in turning EBM into the go-to approach to forest management.

Where we work

We engage with people in the places where they live to design and demonstrate new ways of doing business – be it in small scale forestry, the commercial fishery, housing development or land and marine use planning. No two projects look alike, but the formula is always the same: to get optimum value from resource use, to allow communities to participate in decisions, and to increase the social and cultural benefits of economic growth. To achieve this, simultaneously creating systems change, we work from the ground up, and with problem-solving as a primary principle.

More than this, it is the mandate of Ecotrust Canada to focus on projects that are scalable. We focus our attention at the local and regional scale, where individuals, systems and institutions are best positioned to assess what is not currently working, and inform the process of discovering what might. Speaking specifically to our work in ecosystem based forestry management, we believe strongly that a successful working model in Clayoquot for ecosystem services and cultural management will have a wide appeal and application throughout the province. Our work with the Clayoquot Nations on the Qwii-Qwiq-Sap ‘Standing Tree to Standing Home’ project, which aims to maximize the potential of community forests for local use, and develop skills and training for a local workforce, perfectly demonstrates this approach, as well as the integrated nature of an ecosystem based forestry management process.

Another example is our work on Vancouver Island and the lower mainland on a number of properties to investigate forest carbon offset potential. The result of this offers a strong indication that carbon can be an important asset.

Looking forward

In an ongoing collaboration with the Clayoquot First Nations and Iisaak Forest Resources, we are carrying out the next steps in understanding alternative values on the land base of Tree Farm Licence 54 (TFL54). We will collaborate with a timber supply analyst to create a baseline from which we can work to model alternative future management scenarios. This work is ongoing in early 2012.

Progress is also being made in Whistler with the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF), where we have prepared a feasibility study for a carbon project. We are working on a final confirmation of feasibility – seeking verification that the province will pass carbon offset revenues on to Community Forests – before starting work on the real analysis. The aim is to have carbon credits available to sell to the municipality by mid-2012, allowing the community to meet their carbon neutral obligations under the local government legislation.

On Vancouver Island, we are moving forward in discussions with a number of First Nations who seek to understand values on their traditional territories in regards to treaty settlements and future community development. Our work with these groups aims to help them identify lands within their territory for future negotiations based on a solid understanding of forestry and natural resource values.


BC’s big resource extraction industries need to look for other ways to do business. As a leader in promoting ecosystem-based management on the BC coast, Ecotrust Canada is uniquely positioned to help them find, and embrace, these ways. Based on over 15 years of engagement in forestry, our team of Registered Professional Foresters and technical solutions experts are already working with communities to design new business approaches that help those communities profit sustainably from the wealth of our coastal rainforests. It is our hope that the work we are doing with people in place will serve as a blueprint for communities facing similar issues in the province and beyond.