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Canadian forestry turns to management software

November 18th, 2002

As published on www.itbusiness.ca on November 18, 2002 by Kathleen Sibley

A new software suite released Monday will help governments better see the forest for the trees.

Called Spatial Woodstock (named for Woodstock, N.B.), the three-product suite is an updated version of Fredericton-based Remsoft Inc.'s forest management software. The application allows users like forest managers, consultants, regulatory agencies and investors the ability to portray all modelling activity on spatial maps on the fly.

"Spatial Woodstock allows you to map the changes in the forest over time, so you can map what it looks like today, 10 years from now or 100 years from now," explains Doug Jones, manager of forestry and business development at Remsoft.

"So you can see how particular management strategies are affecting the landscape and what spatial patterns you're going to see over time." Spatial Woodstock, he adds, builds on Woodstock, the vendor's forest management modelling software, and incorporates the spatial scheduling capability of Stanley, Remsoft's harvest block scheduling software, which automates the process of developing a spatial harvest plan. Governments use the software to manage forests for a variety of uses ranging from social values to economical to environmental.

"Governments are always developing new policies for forest management because things are changing all the time," he says. "Values are often conflicting, so they use our software to evaluate the tradeoffs." It's also used to ensure that the companies governments license to manage the land in return for the right to harvest trees are complying with policies, he adds, as well as to ensure compliance with Kyoto accord regulations.

One of the public sector users of Remsoft's forest management products is the Newfoundland forest service. Boyd Pittman, wood supply analyst for the province, says Newfoundland goes through the process of assessing the long-term sustainability of its forests every five years. Each exercise takes two to three years to complete, with about a year off between exercises. The province is heading into another round next year, at which tine it will use the new version of Remsoft's software.

Newfoundland, he says, is unlike the rest of the Atlantic provinces because much of its forests are in small, isolated stands, rather than in large, easily identifiable blocks. About three million of its roughly 11 million hectares of forests are productive, and of that, one million is set aside for other uses, such as parkland or wildlife habitat.

"The big issue we had is we wanted to find a piece of software that could mimic harvesting as we actually do it," says Pittman.

Remsoft's software has allowed Newfoundland's forestry service to come up with two annual allowable cut (AAC) numbers -- the amount you can cut each year without decreasing the amount of long-term sustainable forests -- he says. The first AAC is from the large block of forests and the second is from the small, fragmented stands.

"As we look to the future these fragments keep increasing, so we wanted to find a way to identify them," he says. "(Not identifying them) could have an impact on the sustainability of our harvest." By using spatial software, the service was able to take these fragments and consolidate them into blocks and come up with an AAC for them.

"So if an operator wanted to cut the full AAC, he could only cut, say 90,000 cubic metres from the regular forest," says Pittman. "To get the other 10,000 cubic metres, he had to show us exactly how he was going to get in to get these little pieces."

Media Contact: Moira Finn Manager, Communications & Publications
Tel.: +1 506 450-1511

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