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Forest management tool upgraded to meet certification needs

February 6th, 2004

Computing Canada | Vol. 30, No. 2 As published on Feb. 6, 2004

When it comes to making sure they are meeting regulations governing sustainable forests, many companies and Crown bodies are turning to a tool they've been relying on for more than a decade.

Late last year Fredericton-based Remsoft Inc. launched a major upgrade to its forest management software system that offers improvements for organizations under pressure to show compliance with forest certification criteria.

The upgrade to Remsoft's Spatial Planning System -- comprised of three software packages -- Woodstock, Spatial Woodstock and Stanley -- was created to address the needs of forest product companies and public agencies under pressure to demonstrate they are preserving all aspects of a forest and at the same time fulfil harvesting requirements.

Since it was first launched, users say Remsoft, created for developing long-term detailed forest management plans, has continually evolved.

"This is really the three components in one: the modelling language, the second one which is a spatial allocation tool, and the third one which is the data access, which allows you to manipulate and build/input the sets using geospatial data," says Mark Messmer, timber supply manager with Weyerhaeuser Alberta Forest Lands in Edmonton.

Messmer says Remsoft has become a standard in the forest industry.

"For the first five or six years there were a few people using it, but it was still considered a novelty. In the past five years it has really become a standard. Other institutions and companies that used to maintain modeling software really haven't kept up and so there aren't a lot of people that make this kind of stuff. "The reality is in Western Canada and in most of Canada, the lumber and pulp and paper industry haven't really been doing very well lately, and so we've been asked to do more with less all the time. We really need to keep costs down as much as possible, and anything you can do to save a buck here or there is always appreciated."

Other forest management experts say Remsoft enables them to look at a lot of different facets of forest management and come up with what is optimal.

"We're managing more than 6.4 million acres of land in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and in the state of Maine, so we need a tool that's flexible for a lot of different situations," says Dave Young, forest planning specialist with JD Irving Ltd. in Saint John, N.B.

"We're not just one landowner, one jurisdiction, although there is a common denominator that links it all together. We have different resources and different challenges, so you want to put that into your planning system."

For Young, the working forest has shrunk by about 35 per cent in the last two decades.

"Over the last 20 years the number of things we're managing for both strategically and tactically has increased unbelievably. Things such as deer habitat or other small mammal species for biodiversity. Different cover types in the forest, for old forest, we block them out spacially so we know where they are on the ground. We manage for buffers, for protected areas, for unique sites and it goes on and on," says Young.

He says the software provides functionality for the types of things he needs to do in forest planning and can also accommodate other demands. "Anything you can quantify you can model. You can say, 'I don't want to plant anything more than a 1,000 hectares a year or I don't want to cut any more than so many cubic metres in a deer yard.' It's not like a lot of software applications that you fill in look-up tables and then you run it and if you want it changed you have to phone the software developer and get them to change things."

Remsoft was created by Ugo Feunekes, vice-president of research and development at the company. Feunekes is a professional forester and a computer programmer. When he first created the software, there was little on the market for forest management.

Following needs of the industry

"The U.S. forest service had a program for a long time, but it was always aimed at a specific user, whereas we try and be an off-the- shelf product for everybody," says Feunekes.

Young credits Remsoft for continually upgrading and following the needs of the industry.

"They have a small shop, but they always seem to be ahead of the curve," he says. "With forest management, the more information you collect the more people want to know, and the longer you're on a piece of land the more you have to balance for other users. One hundred and fifty years ago people weren't worried about deer yard management or old spruce or habitat, but today they are, and five years from now there's going to be a whole list of other attributes you have to manage on the land."

Media Contact: Moira Finn Manager, Communications & Publications
Tel.: +1 506 450-1511
Email: moira@remsoft.com

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