John Prince Research Forest: Northern BC’s outdoor laboratory for forest resource research

Forestry Friendly Communities recently caught up with Sue Grainger, RPF and Manager, and Dexter Hodder, Director of Research and Education, at the John Prince Research Forest (JPRF), a forest jointly managed by the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and the Tl’azt’en First Nation. Grainger and Hodder told us about JPRF’s unique wildlife monitoring programs and its vision for integrating wildlife habitat and forestry management.

The John Prince Research Forest is located near Fort St. James in north-central BC within the Tl’azt’en territory. After UNBC opened in Prince George, the university was looking for a research forest that reflected its interests and values in integrated resource management. UNBC and Tl’azt’en partnered and sought to create an outdoor laboratory and facility for forest resource research, education and demonstrations. The JPRF was formally established in 1999, and today, its research and educational work is supported by JPRF’s own forest harvesting operations and log sales program.

Today, the JPRF consists of 16,500 hectares of forested landscape in Tl’azt’en and Nak’azdli territories with a well-established interdisciplinary research program.  One particularly important part of this program focuses on monitoring wildlife communities in an effort to understand and maintain healthy forests. The JPRF monitors the interactions between wildlife habitat use and forest management activities and provides guidance to government agencies and forest licensees on ways to integrate this information into their harvesting plans.

This winter, the JPRF has been working with the Province of BC to formally test its fisher habitat framework on one of its harvesting blocks. Fishers are members of the mustelid family (also commonly known as the weasel family) and the interior population are currently red listed (species or ecosystems that are endangered or threatened) in BC. The fisher habitat framework is a tool developed by BC government biologists and provides guidance for managing a stand and maintaining attributes necessary for a specific animal. Currently, the JPRF is working on both a conservation assessment of fishers and analyzing its logging practices to determine whether it effectively protects them.  Over the last few years, this has been a common theme of JPRF’s management: testing different habitat models and trying to harvest in such a way that accommodates various animals’ needs. Straight from a camera in the JPRF, check out this fisher in action. 

The JPRF uses several forms of technology and tools for its research, including advanced Lidar inventories, drone photography, GPS collars for tracking animals, and an extensive camera grid. The camera grid consists of 66 camera traps distributed across the landscape. They use technology to monitor the populations of different species and observe how species change over time with ongoing climate change, landscape change, and more. Over time, they can determine whether the number of animals they detect goes up, down or stays stable. Naturally, things change over time, but they are always looking at whether the change is natural or driven by what managers are doing on the landscape. The data determines whether or not they need to alter their forest management practices.

The JPRF considers all landscape components as important parts of forest ecosystems.  Different wildlife species depend on different stand conditions and it is critical to consider this when planning any forest management activities. The JPRF is engaged in all aspects of forest management from planning to forest operations to nurturing a stand and watching it grow up again.

To learn more about the John Prince Research Forest, visit