Canopy Tours Offer New Income Opportunity to Small Family Forester

Photo: Canopy Tours Northwest.
Utilizing existing open corridors in the forest, the Kristoferson family implemented a zip line tour featuring Pacific Northwest flora and fauna, to augment their sustainable forest stewardship. Photo: Canopy Tours Northwest.

When Alfred Kristoferson purchased property on Camano Island in 1912, the forest had already been clear-cut. Cedar stumps bearing the notches of the early loggers’ scaffolds remain to this day. Growing timber has always been a component of the property, providing all the wood for the original structures. The approximately 100 forested acres on the property today are managed for timber by fourth-generation Kristofersons, according to a Forest Stewardship Plan developed as part of a Washington State University Extension Forest Stewardship Coached Planning class.

Dividing the forest into stands­­­­­ (which are groups of trees with similar species composition and logging history), a timetable of forest practices including harvests was developed. The resulting 90-year rotation on 100 acres involves harvesting 10-acre stands of timber every 10 years. This rotation allows most trees to reach 90 years old. At any given time, there is a wide range of tree maturity across the entire forest. This age differentiation and spatial diversity maximizes plant and animal diversity too.

One of the first actions of the Forest Stewardship Plan was to harvest declining stands of red alder. These areas were sparsely populated with trees and dominated by shrubs like salmonberry and blackberry. To re-establish a conifer forest, thousands of Douglas-fir, western hemlock and western redcedar were planted after the harvests. This activity supported the overall plan of a 90-year rotation for 100 acres and provided new openings in the forest.

Tour guests experience the forest from a whole new perspective
Tour guests experience the forest from a whole new perspective through trail walks and a zip line course. Photo: Canopy Tours Northwest.

When the family was entertaining new business ideas for the property, key objectives were preserving the existing timber operation, honoring the Forest Stewardship Plan, and making sure any new uses had very low impact on the environment. Utilizing existing open corridors in the forest, the Kristoferson family determined that a zip line tour featuring Pacific Northwest flora and fauna, as well as sustainable forest stewardship, would be a perfect way to share this beautiful setting with others. Canopy Tours Northwest is a low-impact business that allows the timber operation to continue, maintaining a treasure for future generations of the family and the larger Camano community.

The Kristofersons are excited about their canopy tour venture. Tour guests experience the forest from a whole new perspective beginning with a ride up to the first zip line platform in a 1963 Mercedes Unimog. From there, they whiz through the forest, zip-lining from tree to tree on 6 double-cable zip lines, touching down for 2 trail walks and a log bridge to see the forest understory up close. A final 54-foot rappel using a constant-velocity belay device completes the adventure. Throughout the tour, platform displays offer guests opportunities to learn more about the forest around them including QR codes providing links to more information online. Guides with extensive training, certified to the standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology, are with guests every step of the way making sure they can sit back and enjoy the ride.

For more information, visit www.canopytoursnw.com

By Mona Campbell
Kristoferson Farm, L.L.C.