Sustainable forest management is the philosophy, science, and art of enhancing or maintaining the long-term health of a forest ecosystem, while providing environmental, economic, and social opportunities for the benefit of present and future generations. The Algoma Highlands Conservancy (AHC) believes strongly in this concept.
On properties that the conservancy currently or may prospectively own, only trees posing a threat to safe use or impeding maintenance of trails will be harvested. In these conservation forest areas, “Soft-touch” single tree removal techniques will be employed, with felled trees either left on site or provided to our partners at Stokely Creek Lodge as a source of renewable energy. While conservation will be the focus of all activities on AHC-owned properties, we will also be working directly with our partners and neighbours to encourage sustainable forest management practices on all adjoining properties such that continuity of the mixed-wood forest ecosystem and its ecological functions are enhanced over the broader landscape.
The terrain of the highlands varies from gently rolling to very steep, with occasional rock outcrops. The glacial activity that took place 10,000 years ago created the coarse-textured soils that now support forests dominated by tolerant hardwoods. Historically, forests in the area were comprised of a shifting mosaic of conifers and hardwoods, as periodic wildfires, insect and disease outbreaks, and wind storms created relatively large disturbances and opportunities for natural forest regeneration. In more recent times, an absence of periodic wildfires and several partial harvests since the late 1940s have reshaped forests in the area. Forest structure is now simpler, with reduced species and genetic diversity and little variety in tree age and size. A few scattered white spruce, eastern white pine, eastern white cedar, eastern hemlock, and northern red oak stand as legacy remnants of what were much larger components of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Forest Region.
Scattered decaying stumps and much of the current trail network (former logging trails) remain as testaments to this early activity. Several of these old logging trails now form part of the extensive trail system that is enjoyed by thousands of cross-country skiers every winter, as well as other visitors pursuing a wide variety of other silent sport recreation and outdoor leisure activities. Under the specific trail agreement, forged between the AHC, Astina Forest AG and Stokely Creek Lodge, use of the trails for motorized recreational activities is no longer allowed, resulting in significantly reduced disturbance and less potential for negative impacts on the diverse array of wildlife and plant species typical of this area.
Modern sustainable forest management paradigms recognize the need to balance environmental protection with use of the resource for economic, recreational and spiritual benefit of humans. Periodic tree harvests can be made in a sustainable fashion, provided they do not erode the forest growth stock or ecological integrity of the system. Harvesting also provides an opportunity to remove low-quality, diseased and damaged stems, thus producing a gradual improvement in the health, composition and structure of the forest.
These harvests are specifically designed to:
•create favourable environments for the regeneration of sugar maple and species that have been slowly excluded from highlands forests (white pine, white spruce, red oak, and yellow birch),
•maintain or enhance critical habitats (riparian zones, wetlands, nesting cavities),
•preserve and protect species and sensitive areas (steep slopes, shallow soils, lakes, and streams), and
•protect the aesthetics and recreational values of the area.