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Logging and Sawmilling Journal March/April 2014

August/September 2014

On the Cover:
Greg Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Gilbert Smith Forest Products in Barriere, B.C.—and grandson of the founder of the family-run company—is proud of the resourcefulness the mill and its employees showed in carrying out a major mill upgrade on a tight budget (Photo by Paul MacDonald).

Landmark Alberta forestry agreement
A deal with Northern Alberta Métis that involves long-term commercial rights to 200,000 hectares of forestlands is said to be a landmark agreement and could be worth millions of dollars to the community, say its backers.

Resourceful mill upgrade
The Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in the B.C. Interior has just wrapped up a multi-million dollar upgrade that included some new equipment, a lot of used equipment—and involved a whole lot of resourcefulness.

Tracking down energy savings at the mill
Weyerhaeuser’s Princeton, B.C. sawmill is seeing some big-time cost savings from a number of energy initiatives the mill has introduced over the last several years—and the operation is continuing to track down energy saving opportunities.

Cars made out of …Wood?
The BioComposites Group plant in Alberta is very close to bringing its unique product—wood fibre mat produced from refined SPF wood fibre—to industries such as auto manufacturing that are looking for greener materials, and cost savings.

Newfoundland’s
Northwest an award-winner

Newfoundland logging contractor Northwest Forest Resources—now run by the third generation of the Reid Family—recently added to their award hardware collection, being awarded the Canadian Woodlands Forum’s Contractor of the Year for 2014.

Old iron on the Internet
B.C.’s Todd Smith is on a mission to photograph and video old logging equipment—and he’s now sharing his work, and the rich history and heritage of B.C. logging, on the Internet at Youtube.

First Nations band gets into sawmilling
The Hupacasath First Nations band on Vancouver Island is now in the small sawmilling business, having purchased a portable Super Scragg sawmill from D & L Timber Technologies, and is looking at other opportunities in the forest industry, including getting involved in logging.

Ready for the upturn
With increasing demand for wood products, Nova Scotia’s Consolidated Forest Owners Resource Management stands ready to meet an increase in activity in the woods, with its high level harvesting and forest management services.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Forest Innovation Investment (FII), NRCan and the Woodlands Operations Learning Foundation (WOLF).

The Last Word:
Court ruling a possible
game changer

The recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Ts’ilhqot’in Nation vs. British Columbia case could be a game changer for the forest industry, says Jim Stirling.

DEPARTMENTS

Tech Update: Grinders

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The investment by the Hupacasath First Nations band in a new portable Super Scragg sawmill from D & L Timber Technologies will allow the band to mill wood from its own forestry operations, and from the forests of others in and around the Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island.First Nations band gets into sawmilling

The Hupacasath First Nations band on Vancouver Island is now in the small sawmilling business, having purchased a portable Super Scragg sawmill from D & L Timber Technologies, and is looking at other opportunities in the forest industry, including getting involved in logging.

By Paul MacDonald

Hupacasath First Nations (HFN) Chief Steve Tatoosh would like nothing better than to see more members of his band working in the forest industry in and around their home town of Port Alberni, on B.C.’s Vancouver Island.

The HFN is on its way to achieving that, having been awarded a forest licence as part of an agreement signed with the B.C government, as well as having its woodlot expanded, creating more opportunities for band members to work in the woods, on the logging end. The HFN has 300 band members across five reserves in the region.

The investment by the Hupacasath First Nations band in a new portable Super Scragg sawmill from D & L Timber Technologies will allow the band to mill wood from its own forestry operations, and from the forests of others in and around the Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island.

“The agreement will provide many new opportunities for Hupacasath in forestry, tourism and other initiatives, all of which will lead to much needed job creation,” said Tatoosh.

Perhaps the most significant recent move in this direction for the band came with its investment in a new portable sawmill that will allow the HFN to mill wood from its own forestry operations, and from the forests of others in and around the Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island.

Late last summer, the HFN took delivery of a new portable T.S 36DTH 8x12 Super Scragg sawmill from D & L Timber Technologies, of Lac La Hache, B.C. The funding for the mill purchase came from the band itself, as well as from two federal government programs.

“The agreement with the B.C. government resulted in the forest tenures of the band being expanded significantly, so the band thought a sawmill would be a great complement to their forestry program,” explained Rick Hewson, Chief Executive Officer of the HFN.

The band is looking at using the mill to primarily produce heavier wood products such as telephone poles, railway ties and bridge timbers, the last for forest companies operating in this region of Vancouver Island.

They looked at smaller portable sawmills, but decided to go with a larger mill from D & L. “The thinking was that if we had equipment with that kind of capacity and mobility, we would be able to look at taking on a variety of larger projects,” says Hewson.

An agreement with the B.C. government resulted in the forest tenures of the Hupacasath First Nations being expanded significantly, so the band thought a sawmill would be a great complement to their forestry program, explains Rick Hewson, Chief Executive Officer of the HFN.An agreement with the B.C. government resulted in the forest tenures of the Hupacasath First Nations being expanded significantly, so the band thought a sawmill would be a great complement to their forestry program, explains Rick Hewson, Chief Executive Officer of the HFN.

One of the larger projects on the horizon for the HFN is a float home development on Great Central Lake, just west of Port Alberni. The lake now has about 40 float homes, which have no legal standing in terms of a water licence or other tenure, and have no sewer or water. Essentially, people have put floating homes on the lake wherever they want.

The B.C. government, though, wants to see float homes on the lake regulated, with standards of construction, size and where they are located.

So as part of the agreement with the provincial government, the band will be doing a joint venture to develop regulated “float home parks” on the lake, where float home owners will have tenure, and which will be serviced with sewer and water.

“This project opens the potential for the band to actually construct some float homes, as well as the infrastructure, the docks, the platforms on shore, using wood from the sawmill,” says Hewson.

So far, the band’s D & L mill has completed some smaller projects around the area; it’s expected to hit its stride this year, as people become more aware that the HFN is now in the sawmilling business.

“We’re positive it is going to be a great addition,” says Hewson. “There is a lot of interest here in Port Alberni about the mill.” The HFN has talked up the mill to the town of Port Alberni, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, the large local player in the forest industry, Western Forest Products, as well as to other businesses.

The band also has contracts with the B.C. government for repair and maintenance in some local parks, and they have talked with them about producing the thicker picnic tables used in the parks, as well as some smaller buildings. They have also discussed producing utility poles with BC Hydro.

The D & L Super Scragg is being operated as a two person operation; five people from the band have been trained on the mill, four on the operations side, and one as the lead hand. The training, which was extra in addition to the purchase price, was done by D & L Timber Technologies.

“We were happy with the training—it was costly, but it was well done and necessary,” said Hewson. The mill has required some tweaking, but he added that it’s a good design. “It’s working out well.”

The six week training program proved to be of benefit in a couple of ways; band members got used to operating the equipment, and they received some much-needed community profile through a free milling program—people with logs in the local area got to see their wood milled, and the equipment in operation.

“People brought their logs in, supplying us with wood for the training program and we milled them for a modest charge,” says Hewson. “It was great because the band members working on the mill were able to get training—they were turning out everything from 2 x 4s to 10 x 10s, and custom orders in between. And local people got their logs milled at little cost.”

And the band really got a sense of what the D & L can do in operations mode, and what else they might need. The Super Scragg was efficient, and they know now that it can easily go through eight to ten logs per day; and we are talking about Vancouver Island logs, so they are large. It also became clear that a Bobcat or a similar piece of mobile equipment was needed to handle the logs and wood.

D & L Timber Technologies updated the Super Scragg in 2013. The mill is capable of turning out wood products from logs up to an 18” diameter and up to 13’ in length. The sawmill comes equipped with a 55 hp diesel and 40” saws. The saws can be hydraulically set from 4” to 10”

To manage slabs, the mill comes with a slab conveyor and there are slab belts on each side of the saws. An automatic air kicker removes cants from the outfeed. The sawmill also comes with a four strand live hydraulic infeed and outfeed.

The Super Scragg sawmill from D & L Timber Technologies is capable of turning out wood products from logs up to an 18” diameter and up to 13’ in length. The sawmill comes equipped with a 55 hp diesel and 40” saws.

It’s expected that most of the wood the HFN is going to be milling will be coming from the band’s woodlots. But other First Nations bands in the region have woodlots, as well, and the regional district has an educational woodlot, so they represent potential opportunities, especially since the D & L sawmill is portable. It can be easily attached to any of the band’s pick-ups and moved.

If they end up cutting bridge timbers for Western Forest Products, they would likely be using trees on Western Forest Products’ tenured land, so again the portability would be essential.

Hewson said the band has good variety in their forestlands, with second growth fir, pine and some old growth red and yellow cedar. Most of the cedar, because it plays a central role in the spiritual beliefs and ceremonial life of coastal First Nations, will be used for cultural purposes by the HFN.

“With the rest of the wood, we have enough to keep the mill busy,” says Hewson.

But as noted, the band would like to broaden out its activities in the forest industry. They’re looking to harvest their forestlands with First Nations-staffed logging crews. Band members have been trained as certified tree fallers, and other members are being trained for operating heavy equipment.

The HFN was one of the first First Nations bands qualified to bid on BC Hydro contracts and contracts for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and it has successfully completed contracts for both. The HFN recently completed a project for BC Hydro that involved tree falling and clearing. The project had a five month timeline—and they completed it in five weeks. The band has received letters of recognition for the solid work it has done, says Hewson.

At some point, the band would like to move into harvesting as a contractor. “There is great opportunity to do that, and we are building ourselves in that area. In this part of Vancouver Island, there is quite a bit of work harvesting, and at this time, there aren’t any First Nations companies doing that,” says Hewson.

The ideal would be if the HFN had the capabilities to do it all: it would have the infrastructure and skills to do clearing, roadbuilding, falling—and then move the timber to their own sawmill.

“In a perfect world, that’s what we would like to do,” says Hewson. “And we are working towards that. But we need to do it in small steps.”

One of the benefits HFN would have over non-band logging operations is that they would have a longer-term workforce. Their workforce, made up of band members, prefers to stay in their community and seek local jobs.

Just an aside, through the Forest Products Association of Canada’s (FPAC) Vision2020 plan, the industry is looking to renew its workforce with the additional 60,000 workers it is going to need in the years ahead. And the large numbers of young people in First Nations communities, many of them in forestry dependent areas of the country, are prime candidates for working in the woods, and mills. The FPAC has set up a number of programs to encourage First Nations members to receive training in the industry.

Hewson believes the Hupacasath First Nations can be a leader in this area, having all the elements needed to succeed in the forest industry. “I think the band has the right pieces in place to move forward—it has a very progressive and economically and entrepreneurially focused leadership with a supportive and engaged membership.

“A lot of it is going to come from being qualified and being able to bid on contracts. And the expectation with the band is that there will be no favouritism, that they will be competing and bidding against companies that have more experience. But the band also believes there are opportunities for strategic partnerships, with companies that are already out there. We have structured many of these already and will continue to partner with the companies seeking the same business model as the band.”

Regardless of whether the work is in logging or with their new sawmill, the HFN understands that they have to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, with superior work or finding niche markets, for example.

“Again, these businesses have to stand on their own. They have to be economically viable,” says Hewson.

With the new mill now in place, and training completed on the mill side and the logging side, Hewson says the HFN community is moving towards a very strong financial foundation, and can capitalize on business opportunities. “With a community that is supportive and leadership, you can do amazing things.”