By Jim Stirling
It’s the measure of a successful venture when the sum of its benefits more than justifies its initial investment. And while it’s true it’s still very early days for West Chilcotin Forest Products Ltd’s fibre recovery program, all indications are pointing to the emergence of a positive and continuing project.
First, some context. West Chilcotin Forest Products (WCFP) is a forest company owned by the Ulkatcho First Nation and is located at Anahim Lake in west central British Columbia. WCFP is in a relatively isolated location and that is its Achilles heel as a forest company.
“The West Chilcotin plateau lacks the infrastructure many other areas of our province take for granted,” explained Stephen James, executive director of WCFP. “Distance to market has always inhibited market development.”
High operating costs are exacerbated by the difficult times the entire interior B.C. forest industry is currently experiencing. The unfavourable economics is why WCFP’s sawmill complex has been closed down for some time and is likely to stay that way pending a positive change in operating conditions.
But there’s a flip side to WCFP’s predicament and isolated location. The West Chilcotin plateau sustains slow growing, tight-ringed wood producing strong stud lumber products. Those products from its lodgepole pine and Englemann spruce stands are much sought after in North America and Japan. Consequently, although the lumber production side of the company in Anahim Lake is down, log harvesting and trucking activities continue. WCFP logs are being processed at West Fraser and Tolko sawmills in Williams Lake, some 370 kilometres to the east, said James.
WCFP’s new fibre recovery program provides the opportunity to expand the scope of the company’s forest land stewardship. In the process, the program is creating new jobs and improving wood fibre utilization.
The fibre recovery program is made possible by an approximately $750,000 grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. (FESBC) and is in its initial year, said James. “Given the distance to markets for our forest products, enhanced utilization of our forest fibre has always been a struggle. With the funding from FESBC, we can now start to do our part to fight climate change while at the same time provide much needed employment for our band members.”
The FESBC funding allows WCFP’s logging crews to access wood volumes that were uneconomic before. The beneficial ripples from the newfound ability travel far. About 20 full time positions are being generated along the wood supply pipeline as the fibre recovery program gathers momentum. The figure includes new logging and hauling jobs in the West Chilcotin to the newly recovered fibre’s end use as pulp wood furnish on the B.C. Coast.
James reckons the FESBC funding will make it feasible to utilize small diameter logs in the five to eight inch range. Much of the previously non-merchantable and undersize logs now being utilized were burned.
“Everyone in the community was concerned about the amounts of fibre left in the bush after logging,” noted James.
Estimates from the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development suggest some 54,000 cubic metres of material can now be productively used. They are volumes that were being wasted, were creating an additional forest fire risk while left on cut blocks and would have polluted the airshed during disposal. Now, thanks to the FESBC funding, these wood fibre volumes are being converted into a viable product and creating an additional cash flow stream for WCFP.
The recycled fibre volumes are trucked off the Chilcotin Plateau down to tidewater at Bella Coola. There they are loaded onto barges for summer time delivery to the Harmac Pacific Pulp Mill at Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
“This program has many benefits for the area that would not be a reality without this funding,” said James. “We’ve been able to contribute to economic benefits for the West Chilcotin through increasing the number of good jobs, a total of approximately 20 full time positions for local harvesting companies, log haulers and pulp mill workers. Plus we are forging strong relationships with the community of Bella Coola, the Bella Coola Community Forest and Harmac Pacific. This is a good news story for our area and for the community members.”
WCFP’s fibre recovery program is no panacea for the company’s overall situation. But it does represent a positive move in the right direction. It’s a good example of a company crafting a creative initiative to help its people and its overall operation. “These days, you have to think outside the box,” summarized James. “We can no longer do what we used to do.”
On the Cover:
In terms of operations and equipment, the status quo does not work for Andrew Johnson of Wolf Lake Logging and A&K Timber—he’s all about constantly improving his logging operations on B.C.’s Vancouver Island. The latest example of the constant improvements is now at work: the John Deere 959ML tilting hoe chucker/shovel logger (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).
New forest management standards for FSC
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has launched a new national forest management standard, and it includes new or changed requirements in areas such as aboriginal rights and woodland caribou recovery.
New Deere hoe chucker gets coastal workout
Andrew Johnson of Wolf Lake Logging and A&K Timber is all about constantly improving his logging operations on Vancouver Island, and the latest example of the constant improvements was recently put to work: the John Deere 959ML tilting hoe chucker.
Small sawmill prepares for big investment
Ontario’s Papasay sawmill is preparing for some significant equipment investments as they continue the move into value-added wood products.
Hoe chucking in the Rockies—with Chucky
Alberta’s Caber Logging works in some very high elevation areas in the Rockies—where mountain goats call home—and they are using some specialized equipment, including their own home-built hoe chucker, nicknamed “Chucky”.
Fibre win all the way around
A new program in the B.C. Interior is providing jobs in the bush, improving wood fibre utilization and includes delivering fibre to a pulp mill on Vancouver Island—a win all the way around.
Getting the forestry-related digital help you need—now
B.C.-based Tolko Industries has partnered with Epilogue Systems, a developer of a digital adoption platform called Opus, to centralize and standardize documentation, giving employees access to an easy-to-use, single-source portal to quickly obtain information.
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.
We take a look at the latest equipment in Hydraulic Grapple Carriages.
The Last Word
The new B.C.-based federal Environment Minister must seek a balance with natural resources, says Tony Kryzanowski.