William VanDevender was given the opportunity to spend the summer in Vancouver, British Columbia with Brookfield Asset Management’s Timberlands Division. He’s had an incredible experience with Brookfield so far this summer and has been exposed to some new aspects of forestry practices outside of the U.S. South. His favorite experience so far has to be a field trip he took recently where he participated in a tour of Brookfield’s Island Timberlands property where they own approximately 635,000 acres on Vancouver Island, an island just off to the West of Vancouver. The tour started by boarding a float plane in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour for the 20 minute flight over to the timberlands. Once on the island, he toured several active logging sites as well as several regeneration sites – following the tour of the property, he also had the opportunity to see a log export terminal where logs are currently being shipped primarily to Asia, until US demand improves.
- The obvious rotation age difference for sawtimber between the two regions (50-60 years in BC vs. 20-30 years in the US South)
- The regeneration practices after a harvest – typically, harvested tracts are almost always exclusively replanted by hand because of the terrain (no machine planting)
- The wide range of products sold from BC forests – because their market is much more global in nature due to their proximity to both Asian and US markets (as opposed to in the US South where the average customer is typically just a handful of regional mills in the area), they cut logs for dozens of different customers who all demand different log specs – as a result, on-site log sorting by customer specs is a more labor-intensive process, but it’s also much more lucrative as spreads between various markets can be quite wide depending on the individual specs
While there were many other differences (such as the overall terrain, the equipment used for harvest, etc), the ones noted above stood out as some of the starkest differences between the two regions. The main similarity between the two regions? They’re both heavily dependent on a recovering US housing market and are waiting for a turnaround – even though BC (and the West Coast as a whole) has benefited from the Asian markets temporarily, they are acutely aware that a healthy US housing market is necessary for more robust lumber markets to return. Additionally, the Mountain Pine Beetle destruction has definitely been felt on the BC Interior forests, but has largely been non-existent on the BC Coast, where Douglas Firs, Hemlocks and Red Cedars are the predominant species.
In addition to the recent field trip, William has been working on various projects for Brookfield within their downtown Vancouver offices. It’s been a great experience so far for William and he hopes that the second half of his internship will be even close to as rewarding as the first half.
A few pictures below showing some of the highlights from the recent trip: