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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

November 2014

On the Cover:

Sawmills in the Canadian forest industry continued to be active places this fall, thanks to healthy U.S. housing starts—which were recently over the one million mark for the third time this year—and continuing demand for lumber from China, as well as steady demand from other markets. Add to this a lower loonie, and the outlook for the industry looks reasonably bright going into 2015.
(Millyard photo by Tony Kryzanowski)

Fort Nelson wants your sawmill
If you’re looking to set up a sawmill operation, B.C.’s Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and the town of Fort Nelson want to talk to you—and they have a basket of sustainable green timber in their back pocket.

One-two punch in harvesting equipment
B.C.’s Mattey Bros. Logging has a relatively new one-two punch on the harvesting end these days, in the form of a John Deere 959K tracked feller buncher and an 870C Tigercat tracked buncher, and both machines are delivering the goods.

Harvesting trees—and crops
A logging and farming combination approach to business is working well for brothers Marcel and Alain Chalifour of logging contactor Almar Limbing in Saskatchewan, with the brothers sometimes dividing their time between harvesting trees, and crops.

Malakwa mill resurrection
A sawmill in the small B.C. Interior town of Malakwa has been resurrected with some capital—and plenty of hard work—and is now producing green hemlock lumber for the Chinese market.

Ready for Mother Nature
B.C. Interior logging contractor John Himech Logging Ltd has to be ready for whatever Mother Nature sends their way—including wildfires that can throw harvesting schedules out of whack.

Award-winning sawmill partnership
The award-winning Opitciwan sawmill partnership between Resolute Forest Products and the Atkamekw Council of Obedjiwan Quebec First Nations stands out as a model for other First Nations/forest industry partnerships across Canada.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions…

The Last Word
Jim Stirling talks about how B.C.’s Forest Practices Board keeps an eye on the forests.

DEPARTMENTS

New & Noted: at Timber Processing and Energy Expo in Portland, Oregon

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Fort NelsonFort Nelson wants your sawmill

If you’re looking to set up a sawmill operation, B.C.’s Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and the town of Fort Nelson want to talk to you—and they have a basket of sustainable green timber in their back pocket.

By Jim Stirling

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality is taking the bull by its proverbial horns. Frustrated by provincial government inertia and driven by the determination to re-ignite its forest industry, the regional municipality is now independently seeking industrial partners to unlock the potential of its forgotten forests.

It’s circulating an information package to introduce forest industry investors to the substantial storehouse of available healthy green forests in northeastern British Columbia.

As well, the regional municipality says its major community of Fort Nelson has the sustainable support infrastructure required for the development of its under-utilized forest resources.

The forest industry used to be part of Fort Nelson’s economy. The town has supported the industry in one form or other for at least half a century.

Since the 1970s, Fort Nelson has been home to various sizes and types of sawmills, a plywood plant, a chopstick manufacturing mill and an OSB plant. But then along came 2008 and the global downturn. The major forest company in Fort Nelson—Canfor—pulled out. The industry ground to a halt. Local loggers had to look to the oil and gas patch and other ways to make ends meet.

B.C.’s Liberal government has continued cutting funding for forestry and whittling down the numbers of ministry staff in the districts. Fort Nelson has gone from 26 to eight in about eight years.

The northern spirit of self reliance kicked in when the regional municipality didn’t receive any encouragement from Victoria to promote forest industry development in its area.

“We decided to go ahead and do something about it,” recalled Jack Stevenson, director of community planning and development with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality in Fort Nelson. “We are used to doing for ourselves. We are neglecting a resource that can help our region.”

The staff at the local office of the Ministry of Forests & Natural Resource Operations supported the Northern Rockies initiative. “They’ve gone out of their way to help,” said Stevenson.

The Fort Nelson Timber Supply Area (TSA) represents about 9.8 million hectares of northeastern B.C. About 5.7 million cubic metres is categorized as productive forest with a current timber harvesting land base of about 1.4 million hectares. Spruce is the dominant conifer, followed by pine, and there’s a significant deciduous specie component of aspen, cottonwood and birch.

The pine is spread unevenly in the TSA (about 23 per cent) with the highest concentrations in the forests west of the mountains. Much of it is inaccessible and small diameter. “The mountain pine beetle crossed over our southern boundary a few years ago. It continued north this year, but is sporadic due to the nature of our eastern pine stands. It (the beetle epidemic) may have lost some of its vigour as it deals with cooler climates,” speculated Steve Lindsey, forest district manager in Fort Nelson.

The AAC for the Timber Supply Area was around 1.625 million cubic metres when the recession hit and the bottom fell out from the U.S. housing market.

“Given that the forest resource in the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality has been largely untouched by the mountain pine beetle and harvesting has been minimal in the last six years, our available basket of sustainable green timber provides a significant investment opportunity,” emphasized Bill Streeper, Mayor of Fort Nelson.

Administering a TSA with a limited history of development has its challenges and opportunities, as the regional municipality’s forestry overview candidly states. “The relatively short operational experience in this extensive and geographically isolated TSA presents difficulty in defining economically harvestable stands, which adds uncertainty to the level of harvest that may reasonably be expected to be achieved.

“On the other hand,” it adds, “a benefit of the early stage of development is a preponderance in the TSA of extensive areas of older timber that remain undeveloped across the landscape, affording many alternative options and much flexibility for resource management in the TSA.”

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality knows potential investors must look beyond the nature of the forest resource itself before making decisions. Fort Nelson can claim solid advantages there, too. The municipality of about 5,300 residents is a road and air transportation hub and the northern freight terminus of CN Rail. It has a full range of housing, service, educational, leisure and retail amenities.

In 2013, Northern Rockies concluded a cost sharing Infrastructure Development Contribution Agreement with the provincial government. The accord allows for the investment of a growth-driven $10 million per year for 20 years to accommodate demands for municipal services. “We anticipate the region will become a cornerstone for economic growth,” notes the forestry overview package. The vision includes the growing role of a forest industry in the northeast.

Jack Stevenson, along with Mike Gilbert, community development officer, are not anticipating their forestry investment appeal will attract another single integrated forest giant. “We see clustering as a possible model. A 100 per cent usage of the resource is the target,” explained Gilbert. That may well include a sawmill, creating products for markets best suited to the available fibre.

“Because of our distance from market, we need to add value at this end,” he continued. “We’re trying to build a resilient and diverse sector that will create a stable employment base.”

Initial reaction to the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality’s efforts have been encouraging, reported Stevenson and Gilbert.

“We can’t be specific at this stage but in general terms we’ve heard from those interested in producing lumber and
innovative technologies, like biofuels,” said Gilbert.

The regional municipality is formulating follow-up strategies to the original introductory foray into the forest investment communities. “We don’t delude ourselves. We know it will take time and we’re prepared for that,” declared Gilbert. “We’re in it for the long haul.”

For more information consult www.northernrockies.ca …and follow the forestry investment links.

Fort Nelson, B.C. has been home to a variety of forest industry facilities over the years—and now stands ready to kick-start new industry facilities in the town.