Xwémalhkwu (Homalco) means “people of the fast running waters.”
This was inspired by the turbulent waters surrounding the original home of the Homalco Nation in Bute Inlet, one of the main inlets on the B.C. Coast—and the heart of the business for the Homalco Forestry Limited Partnership.
The Homalco First Nation started their forestry program with a vision that they continue to see through: “to provide integrated resource management for their core area of Bute Inlet by managing the land within their traditional territory in a respectful way that provides for sustainable growth of all resources”.
The Homalco Territory spans 1.5 million hectares from the Chilcotin Plateau on the B.C. Mainland to Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Homalco people have been stewards of their land since time immemorial. Their approach to resource management today is built on four pillars: forestry, tourism, fish and wildlife, and power with the aim of supporting the cultural social and economic well-being of the Nation.
The forestry pillar, made with a strong employee group, board, and partnerships, is operating their own logging company and has acquired forest tenure of their own—forest tenure they wish to grow. “If we have that kind of control of resources in our territory, our rights become stronger, and our economic development also becomes stronger,” says Homalco Chief Darren Blaney.
Homalco Forestry Limited Partnership (HFLP) was established in 2011 to conduct forest management and provide timber harvesting services within the territory. HFLP, wholly owned by the Homalco First Nation, is led by a board of directors under the guidance of Blaney, and managed by a dedicated employee group. The focus is on thoughtful management of the territory, safety, employment and training.
Blaney says he has applied his personal commitment as Chief of the Homalco First Nation and President of HFLP to “development, accountability, and building relationships with the broader community of Campbell River”. Blaney has worked to increase the expertise on the board, increase the number of Homalco members as employees, and has turned attention to the careful management of the company’s finances through “discipline and monitoring”.
Blaney explained that the forestry operation’s goals include providing a regular annual income stream to contribute to community programs and further investment in business for the Nation, as well as creating the opportunity for long term well-paid jobs—these jobs would be not just for Homalco people, but also the communities adjacent to Homalco in Campbell River and northern Vancouver Island. Building on this, the community can develop capacity for the Nation; for young people for training and future careers, says Blaney.
HFLP initiated its investment in their own tenure with the purchase of Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 43 from Kruger Inc. Kruger inherited the TFL when it purchased Scott Paper, which harvested cottonwood from the TFL to support its tissue plant in New Westminster, B.C. The TFL, which has an annual cut of nearly 20,000 cubic metres, includes considerable land at the head of Bute Inlet. In addition, HFLP has several forest licences.
HFLP provides an opportunity for Homalco people to have an active role in forestry within their traditional territory. Plans incorporate the protection and management of the land base, fish and wildlife, water quality and cultural resources. With the advice of the Homalco community, HFLP integrates these environmental values to provide a holistic and sustainable planning framework, says Blaney. By participating in the forest industry, HFLP is able to help ensure that the development of forest resources is sustainable, with the values of Homalco people in mind, for present and future generations, he added.
HFLP’s logging company is 100 per cent owned by the Homalco First Nation and is operating with up to a 24-person crew in logging camps in some of the most remote areas on the central coast of B.C., from its base in Campbell River. About 50 per cent of their crew is indigenous and the company works for most of the major licensees in the area as well as on their own tenures.
“Working in our territory means a lot to me,” says Ron Hackett, a Homalco Member and Logging Supervisor at HFLP. “Today I’m logging here and that brings me back home.”
Hackett and his fellow employees’ connection to the land and hard work at HFLP was acknowledged in 2017, when the company was recognized by the BC Achievement Foundation at their BC Aboriginal Business Awards for outstanding business achievement. HFLP received the Community Owned Business of the Year award.
“The BC Indigenous Business Award recognizes enterprises that create and expand opportunities, relationships and communities, all with the goal of a more prosperous future,” said foundation Chair, Anne Giardini, who is the former president of Weyerhaeuser Company Limited. “BC Achievement is particularly excited to highlight some of the many Indigenous businesses across British Columbia that foster innovation, integrating the practices of the past with the economies of the future.”
HFLP harvests up to 160,000 cubic metres annually. The company has purchased substantial heavy-duty logging and marine equipment to be able to provide these services. Their major equipment line-up includes four Madill 3800C loaders and two Madill 2850C processors with Waratah heads. They also have some Hitachi equipment, an EX330LC-5 excavator as a back spar, and two log loaders, an EX400LL, an EX450LL and an EX450LC excavator with a quick attach grapple. Equipment is moved around, to also do hoe chucking. Their skidders include two Cats, a 528 and a 545C, and a John Deere 748 GIII. On the grapple yarder side, they have two Cypress units, a 7280B and a 7280C.
With the support of local forestry specialists, like Great West Equipment out of Campbell River, they are able to maintain and invest in their current fleet so it can perform as efficiently as possible for the long-term. HFLP’s success then directly contributes to the economic fabric of the broader community through procurement.
On the path of continual improvement, HFLP’s board recently hired Jim Auringer as their Forestry Manager. Auringer’s broad background in managing and supervising various contract logging operations has spanned decades. His expertise and network will complement HFLP’s business and engagement in the sector and ensure long-term, sustainable, benefits to the Homalco and broader community.
The team at HFLP believes in the power of partnerships and working cooperatively for mutual benefit. HCFP recently signed a five-year relationship agreement with Interfor working together within the territory with open communication, meaningful engagement, and joint decision-making. (see story on page 25) They also have business relationships with several industry players including A&A Trading who markets their timber.
“We bring our broad and well established network of customers to Homalco’s business,” says A &A’s President, John Mohammed. “We focus on attaining the very best value for each and every one of their logs. We believe every dollar counts when it goes back into the community or contributes to furthering Homalco’s long term business goals.”
HFLP's logging company has successful contracts with major licensees in the area like Interfor, TimberWest, and A&A Trading. Industry colleagues are committed to increasing the engagement of First Nations in the forest sector. “Hiring HFLP as a contractor is one way we can contribute to their growth. At the same time, we see contractor capacity strengthening. So it is a win for everyone,” says Mohammed.
HFLP’s long-term goals are to continue to build on their business and provide jobs, training and revenue for the Nation’s community and members. The objectives to meet those goals include the development of an Integrated Resource Management Strategy and Plan. Here, HFLP will co-manage the forest resources in the territory to provide Homalco with sustainable economic and social development for present and future generations. To complement that, they are looking to build on their contracted volume and client base as well as work with the province to increase their own tenure or land area and subsequent stake in the territory.
HFLP leadership also stays in tune with changes to forest policy that may impact the success of their business. Homalco has partnered with other licensees to ensure the unique operations and local and broad reaching benefits of First Nations forestry business and their partners is understood by provincial policy makers, says Blaney.
To ensure they are making the most sustainable business choices and adapting to a constantly changing business environment, HFLP is currently working with accounting/consulting firm MNP to develop metrics for the business as well as work on a five-year plan—following through with Blaney’s charge of “discipline and monitoring”.
Securing new opportunities, partnerships and continually improving their business; the People of the fast running waters have met, and continue to meet, their original vision of a sustainable and successful forestry business, says Blaney.
Forest company Interfor has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Homalco First Nation to “foster a positive working relationship” in B.C.’s coastal region, says the company.
“We already have a great relationship with the Homalco First Nations, whose traditional territory overlaps two of our forest licences,” says Andrew Meyer, Interfor’s Operations Manager, Coastal Woodlands. “The MOU improves this by setting out our respective interests and objectives so we can work together openly and respectfully with mutual trust.”
The MOU is seen as a platform from which the Homalco and Interfor can launch future business opportunities such as tenure management aimed at meeting the shared interests of both parties—fiber security, land base certainty and business development.
Gene Hudema, Manager, First Nation and Forestry Partnerships for Interfor, says the company has had a relationship with the Homalco First Nation that goes back about 20 years, pre-dating Homalco Forestry Limited Partnership.
The Bute Inlet is a key operating area for Interfor, and the company targets 120,000 cubic metres a year to Homalco Forestry, on a stump to dump basis. “It’s a win/win for all of us,” Hudema says.
The relationship Interfor has with Homalco is seen as kind of a template in terms of other First Nations bands, in that Homalco has a well-developed forestry program, with its own equipment, and its forestry operations clearly deliver benefits to the band, he added. Other bands are actively working towards achieving that, with the encouragement and participation of Interfor and other B.C. forest companies.
There are solid opportunities for bands to have an active role in forestry in their traditional territories—and to benefit economically.
Hudema says Interfor has taken a leadership role in working with First Nations
He explained that Interfor has about 80 agreements of differing types with First Nations bands in B.C., 30 of them on the Coast, from the North Coast down to southwestern B.C. “We want the First Nations to be active and successful in the forestry sector,” he says. “It’s where the future is.”
By participating in the forest industry, First Nations bands can provide forest management services, including logging, to build their own capacity and to help ensure that the forest resources are developed sustainably.
Interfor has developed a document on dealing with bands, First Nations Partnerships: Objectives and Guiding Principles. The agreement it has signed with bands include mutually recognized objectives:
The Canadian forest industry is going to need a lot of new workers in the years to come—and some of those workers are going to come from the First Nations community, including the Homalco First Nation on Vancouver Island.
As part of an ongoing engagement process, the forest industry as a whole, and its associations, such as the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), have reached out to First Nations communities. That outreach makes sense in a number of ways; it’s estimated that between 70 and 80 per cent of Canada’s Indigenous population live close to forestry operations.
FPAC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Assembly of First Nations, which seeks to strengthen Canada’s forest sector through economic development initiatives and business investments, and the creation of skill development opportunities, particularly targeted to First Nations youth.
A recent economic study from the B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI) found 5,315 Indigenous workers are directly employed in the forest industry in B.C. making up about nine per cent of the workforce, or 1 in 11 direct jobs. This level of employment is more than in any other resource sector in B.C.
In addition to working directly in forestry and manufacturing jobs, indigenous participation in the forest sector is strong in the contracting sector, including activities such as logging, construction, silviculture, firefighting and professional services, the study found.
On the Cover:
James and Susan Willis manage J.A. Willis Contracting with ambition, strict business acumen, with a focus on efficient and productive equipment and highly motivated operators—it’s a powerful formula. Part of their core equipment is a Tigercat 845 harvester James first started using in B.C.—and continues to use in the logging operation they now run in New Brunswick, which now has a staggering 70,000 hours on it. The Willis logging operation also includes some recently acquired equipment such as the new Peterbilt truck with BWS quad trailer pictured on the cover. Read all about the Willis operation beginning on page 18 of this issue (Cover photo by George Fullerton).
B.C. hard hit by mill closures, curtailments
British Columbia—particular the Interior of the province—has been hit hard by sawmill closures and curtailments, and it is having a definite, and big, ripple effect on the logging sector, says the new general manager of the Interior Logging Association, Todd Chamberlain.
First Nations keeping the wood flow happening
First Nations and Métis communities are playing a key role in keeping the wood flow happening at Tolko Industries’ OSB plant in High Prairie Alberta, with a First Nations corporation managing all the log yard activities at the operation.
Opting for off-species
New Brunswick’s Tony Boyd took a somewhat circuitous route to sawmilling, via the trades and logging, but he’s now established a solid business producing custom wood products from a variety of off-species in the region.
A logging package that delivers
James Willis has logged in the West and East, working with the same dependable, productive Tigercat 845 buncher, though these days he has a new Log Max 6000V head, and opted for the Rotobec continuous rotator, a package that delivers the goods.
Taking care of business
B.C.’s Homalco First Nation is looking to build up its forestry operations, to make optimum use of their logging equipment—and to continue to grow its business and provide jobs and training for the band’s members.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Alberta Innovates, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
Canada’s softwood lumber negotiating strategy is hurting, not helping, forestry workers, says Tony Kryzanowski.