And like his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him, Jon has taken a patient approach to learning what it takes to keep a forest healthy.
The first harvest on their Gulf Island property was by Jon’s great grandfather, Arthur Spalding, in 1915. Today, Jon talks with pride about the property’s stand of healthy, mostly fir trees, that to many, looks like a park. (Local residents frequently request access for hiking, mountain biking or bird watching on the property.)
Not every location on Pender Island is as productive as Jon’s. There are a lot of spots that are rocky with variable drainage. They’re wind exposed and trees don’t grow there.
Jon comes from a long line of forest managers who figured it out as they went. Jon’s father, David Spalding, was a wildlife biologist. He leaned on professional foresters to help set up the forest management plans and provide him with guidelines on the silvicultural cycle for the property.
“My dad took a real ‘earn while you learn’ approach, which ultimately involved a small logging and sawmilling operation that supplied the local market.” said Jon.
“Dad was always passionate about protecting wildlife values on the property,” said Jon. “One of his pet projects was studying a little-known snake that is not widespread, but there are some on Pender Island. So he studied them and worked on habitat enhancement for the snake. We’ve always tried to look at the big picture in how we manage the land.”
Jon’s grandfather, Herbert Spalding also took a broader approach to managing their property’s forests. With evidence that the property had once been a seasonal living site for local First Nations, his grandfather made the property available to elders for bark stripping. “The local First Nations valued the area because the Cedar roots were considered to be of better quality than in other locations.” said Jon.
For Jon, the property and its forests bring him many layers of satisfaction. “There’s a financial reward—as long as log markets pick up!” says Jon. And there should be a financial benefit, the property has been an investment for the family for decades.
“There’s another part of it too,” said Jon, “which is a lifestyle, a joy. “We design a management plan, follow a prescription, and look at it now – this forest is growing and it’s maturing and it’s habitat for different animal species,” said Jon. “Just being so closely connected, you have this intimate relationship with the forest,” said Jon. “It’s not just a bunch of trees.”