Fourteen students completed the first official tree marking course in Nova Scotia 20Jun2024

Guest Post by Minga O’Brien

Tree marking is an integral step in partial harvesting systems geared towards managing for quality timber products, and healthy forest habitats.

Nova Scotia Tree Marking Course: Marking for Selection Harvest at Medway Community Forest.
Click on image for larger version

From June 4-7, 2024, it was my pleasure to be an instructor for a tree marking course offered by Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Forest Innovation. Accommodation and morning classes took place at NSCC’s College of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown, and field sites were situated on Crown lands licensed to the Medway Community Forest Co-op. There were 14 participants and 7 instructors, 2 of whom (Al Stinson-from the Canadian Institute of Forestry and Martin Streit – from Forests Ontario) traveled from Ontario to lead what many hope to be the first of many tree marking courses in Nova Scotia.

What is tree marking, you’re asking? It is an integral step in partial harvesting systems geared towards managing for quality timber products, and healthy forest habitats. Tree markers assess every tree in a harvest block and use brightly-coloured tree marking paint to identify which trees the logging contractor can cut or not cut. They base their decisions on a forest operations prescription, tree health, tree form, tree species, silvics (how and where trees grow), biodiversity considerations and the presence of important wildlife habitat features.

The goal of tree marking is to improve the value of the stand over time by removing defective, low vigour trees in early entries, while at the same time – and this is why I am such a fan – not compromising wildlife habitat and biodiversity. If, for example, the tree marker finds a nesting cavity in a tree, they may mark it as a wildlife tree to ensure it is protected with a goal of retaining 10 quality cavity trees per hectare. Similarly, if a tree has a bird-of-prey nesting in it, such as an eagle, the tree marker flags for protection a no-go zone around the nest based on species specific guidelines.

Tree marking has been a thing in Ontario since the 1970s. In 1994, Ontario instituted mandatory certification for tree markers on Crown land. This requirement has now been adopted on many private lands in Ontario, including community-owned forests and in some municipalities with tree cutting regulations. Back in 2002, I traveled to Ontario for a week-long tree marking course offered by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. It was intense, with field and written tests on the final day, and a minimum passing grade of 80%. I was certified in 2010 after a provincial auditor evaluated my tree marking. Over the past 8 years, I have been incorporating various aspects of tree marking into the Natural Resources Environmental Technology program I teach at NSCC Lunenburg campus.

Al and Martin are Ontario forestry professionals with a great deal of experience with tree marking and managing for high quality products like white pine lumber and sugar maple veneer. Martin worked for Domtar and the Ministry of Natural Resources. Currently, Martin does contract work for two community forests and an Ontario sawmill that has been cutting high quality white pine for six generations. Al is retired from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and is a past national president of the Canadian Institute of Forestry. Al was the keynote speaker for the Eastern Hardwood Conference held in Port Hawkesbury in 2017. His message was clear: manage hardwoods like sugar maple and yellow birch with tree marking and selection harvesting, and it will pay well.

Their knowledge and experience, along with that of Mark Pulsifer (retired NS Natural Resource & Renewables biologist), Mary Jane Rodger and Matt Miller (Medway Community Forest Co-op), and Sherilyn Young (Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn / Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative), made the course an excellent learning opportunity for the young, interested group that attended, all of whom are associated with Nova Scotia’s ground-breaking and inspirational Family Forest Network.


• Ontario Tree Marking Guide
Queen’s Printer for Ontario, © 2004, “…The intent of the guide is to support delivery of the Provincial Tree Marker Training Program, and to provide operational guidance to tree markers who employ the partial cut silvicultural systems in Ontario. Current legislation specifies that management effort must emulate the effects of natural disturbances. Since tree species have evolved mechanisms to respond to disturbance—whether the isolated incidence of windthrow or a landscape level wildfire—it is logical that those response mechanisms would suggest a silvicultural regime. Tree markers must therefore be aware of significant ecological traits such as shade tolerance, seed periodicity, response to release, etc., and understand how to take advantage of those adaptations during a treemarking program…”

• How Properly Implemented Tree Marking Enhances the Value of Your Property Over Time
YouTube Video on Ontario Woodlot Association channel, Feb 9, 2022. Presentation by Al Stinson at the Ontario Woodlot Association’s Kemptville Winter Woodlot Conference.

• Short Film on Tree Marking
YouTube Video Mar 6, 2012 on the channel.
“This video is about the practice of tree marking – the initial step in Forestry – prior to the harvesting of wood product. Tree Marking is conducted by a Certified Forest Technician.”

• An Introduction to Tree Marking
Guest post by MCFC Board Member Tommy Lutz on Medway Community Forest Blog, January, 2016 “Tree marking is a forest management technique used in forests around the world. It is as simple as its name – individual trees are marked in a forest stand before the stand is “treated”, or has some of the trees cut. Tree marking is used in industrial forestry to ensure that forestry contractors who are using machinery to harvest wood are cutting the right trees to maximize the efficacy of a silvicultural treatment that has been prescribed for the stand by a forester. It also provides a monitoring opportunity, as the system provides an easy opportunity for auditing…”


Minga O’Brien, right, with Matt Miller & Mary Jane Rodger at Tree Marking Course



Minga O’Brien is a biologist and forest technician with more than 30 years experience in scientific research, field work, conservation, forest management and education.

She has been teaching the Natural Resources Environmental Technology program at Nova Scotia Community College for 9 years.

This entry was posted in Certification systems, Conservation, Sustainable Wood Harvests, Tree-marking. Bookmark the permalink.