July 17, 2020 12:24 pm Leave your thoughts
For my third entry in the Green Dream Blogs I would like to share my experiences reflagging pre-harvest blocks with you.
“Better if Used By”, “Best Before” and “Expires On” are all terms we are familiar with when it comes to the food and perishable goods that we purchase every week at the grocery store, but did you know that common flagging tape also has an expiry date? It’s not something I had ever considered, but like most in the industry, I have come across brittle and faded flagging tape often, whether it be old tape that a tree planter used to mark their piece, tape used to mark washouts and other hazards on a road system or when used on center stakes of a variety of surveying work. The use of flagging tape is widespread in the forest sector, but I had not considered that there are applications when it should be replaced over time and as it becomes weathered.
I’m not implying that the rolls of flagging tape in your garage that you use for hunting or the tape in your pickup that you use to flag culverts has a shelf life and is no longer usable after a certain period of time, but rather that once flagging tape is used in whatever application you choose, eventually as it becomes sun faded and brittle, and depending on the purpose, one should consider replacing it.
So why is this important? It may not be if you are hanging the flagging tape for a single use job, like flagging your way into a plot or marking temporary hazards on a jobsite. Where it can be important however, is when laying out boundary for a harvest block, similarly to what I have been instructed to do this summer. When a block is mapped for harvest, Weyerhaeuser hires contractors to flag several different features within the block. Those different features are as follows:
Boundary – Blue
Roads – Orange
Stream or water features – Pink
Archeology site or “Machine Free Zone” – Red
Crossings – Yellow
Once contractors have flagged the different features within a block, Weyerhaeuser operators are now ready to harvest. Using a combination of flags and GPS built into their equipment as a guide, contracted operators can successfully navigate and harvest the timbre within the block, while allowing proper buffer of any flagged streams or other Areas of Concern. Where reflagging comes into the equation is if the flagged block does not get harvested within five years. Once five years has elapsed since initial flagging, the block must be reflagged. The main reasons for the reflag of a block after five years are the visibility challenges presented as the flagging tape becomes faded, brittle, and simply gets knocked down from weather and deterioration.
As part of my duties for the summer, I was given a list of blocks that required reflagging and the necessary maps required to navigate those blocks. Barring weather that saturates the primarily clay roads in this region of Alberta, I have been replacing flagging tape in blocks that are at least 5 years from their previous flagging date. Typically, I ask another summer student to join me as we flag the road into the block. Once we reach the end of the laid-out road, we split up and each reflag the boundary until we meet up again. Keeping in radio contact, we reflag any streams that we encounter, all while tracking ourselves on GPS to ensure that we have not left any portion of the block behind. Once we have completed reflagging everything delineated on our maps (and sometimes new features not originally listed on the map, such as ephemerals) we reconvene at the trucks and decide if we have the time to complete another block in the area.
A few weeks ago, our region was hit with heavy rainfall that seriously impeded our ability to access many of these blocks. It was frustrating to attempt entry to these blocks day after day, only to discover what we already knew. The roads were nearly impassable, and at the request of management we were asked to minimize damage to the roads. In the most recent week however, the roads have firmed up with the help of some sunshine and wind, allowing us once more to enter the blocks and complete some reflagging.
I appreciate completing reflags as it gives me the opportunity to explore the forests in Alberta. I enjoy comparing what I see here to what I have encountered in various employment in Ontario. The differences in operations and species encountered are fascinating to me, and I look forward to when I can return to Ontario with the knowledge that I acquired in Alberta and apply it to future Forest Operations positions.