By Jim Stirling
Much of the forest landscape in the British Columbia Interior has significantly changed during the last 20 years. The implications of those changes are profound.
As an illustration, alterations in the composition of the remaining forest stands means the previous log harvesting systems may no longer be appropriate and new methods need to be adopted. But using the different types of logging equipment and harvesting methods that are now required underlines a significant regional shortage of the operators qualified to implement them.
The City of Quesnel and its partners have stepped up to the plate to help redress the situation. The group is devising an operator training proposal unlike others in the province. It has borrowed from the experience gained in selective harvesting and thinning techniques regularly employed in eastern Canada. Those types of harvesting systems were pioneered in Scandinavia, but until relatively recently have represented unfamiliar territory to most B.C. loggers.
The Quesnel group’s training program will focus on the understanding, appreciation and operation of two key pieces of equipment: single grip harvesters and forwarders. The two machines are key to operating the harvesting systems the group believes will be increasingly used in forests across the B.C. Interior region.
The Quesnel Selective Harvesting Research and Innovation Pilot Project has applied for a $1.7 million grant from the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. If all the pieces fall into place, the first crop of student operators will begin their training at Quesnel in March 2021, anticipates Erin Robinson, Forest Initiatives Manager for the City of Quesnel and primary project manager for the research pilot project.
“Quesnel is in the heart of a pivotal transition occurring in B.C.’s interior ecosystem.” points out Robinson. “Changes in training and workforce development will be necessary to navigate this transition.” She adds some background. “The state and condition of forests comprising the Quesnel Forest District have changed greatly in the last 20 years, substantially influenced by the large scale beetle outbreaks and landscape level fire disturbances,” she explains. “Managing forest land to restore its resilience to potential disturbances and mitigating their impacts is part of our objectives,” she says.
One of the factors involved with the process is looking closer at the options presented by less economic stands. These include young forest stands that have resulted from salvage harvesting activities, and opportunities offered by mature but vulnerable older stands. Selective harvesting is viewed as a way of restoring resiliency and the integrity of mature stands while commercial thinning techniques can be applied to benefit the young forest stands.
“The project proponents are certain advanced approaches to research, technology and best practices from eastern Canada and Scandinavia can be transferred/adapted to develop state of the art solutions tailored to the unique conditions in B.C.,” continues Robinson.
Quesnel City Council, led by Mayor Bob Simpson, has taken the initiative to be in the vanguard of accommodating change, an unusual role for a municipality. Quesnel is one of the more definitive forest industry dependent communities in B.C. It is home to a range of large and small forest industry enterprises and a broad-based industrial expertise pool.
Mayor and council believe the forests surrounding Quesnel can be an incubator for ideas on how forest management can be shaped to address climate change challenges and new forest product development. The city’s pro-active attitude is reflected in several ways. It hosted a “think tank” in 2018 to generate ideas from a wider cross section of people. It followed up with a second one the following year. Quesnel was working toward acquiring a partnership in a community forest licence. A Forest Innovation Centre was established in Quesnel in part to help the public better understand the forest industry’s transition. The new worker training initiative was another of the ideas to emerge from the “think tank” process and mature into action.
As with its other ventures, the Quesnel group cast a wide net to trawl for the best expertise at home and abroad to assist with curriculum development, course content and program review for its initial training period between November 2020 and 2023.
Robinson says the three primary project partners are the Department of Forest Resource Management, University of British Columbia; Natural Resources Finland; and the Forest Initiatives Program staff in Quesnel.
Project partners are: Forest Liaison Inc, a provider of operator training for the timber harvesting sector, established in New Brunswick in 2007; the College of New Caledonia, serving B.C.’s Central Interior since 1969; West Fraser Mills, a large integrated forest company founded in Quesnel in 1955; FPInnovations, a not-for-profit organization supporting Canada’s global competitiveness in forestry; and Valhalla Equipment, an authorized Ponsse dealer.
Project collaborators include local First Nations governments and local log harvesting contractors who have embraced the use of harvesters and forwarders. Project supporters include the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Land, Natural Resource Operations; the Likely Community Forest; the Williams Lake Community Forest; B.C. Forest Safety Council; and Community Futures. The Fraser Basin Council will be the evaluator of the first three-year course.
The plan for the program’s first three-year period is to train 12 students in three groups of four, each within a 15-week program delivery period. Priority will be extended to students in the Quesnel and surrounding areas and those impacted by mill closures and other forest industry curtailments. Each training group will include one female and one First Nation representative.
Machine simulators will represent a key piece of the training equation. Ponsse simulators with a Sim Trainer program designed for Ponsse harvester and forwarder operations will provide trainees exposure in a non-threatening learning environment with immediate real time feedback from the technology.
“The findings from the Quesnel case study can then be scaled up to the provincial level by offering a ‘how to guide’ for other training institutions and by offering training in Quesnel to students from around the province (and beyond) by 2023,” concludes Robinson.
On the Cover:
Logging contractor Tyler Backer of Pro Link Logging has seen a technological revolution within British Columbia’s forest industry, and says he’s always got an eye open for new harvesting equipment developments and techniques that might enhance Pro Link Logging’s efficiency. Read all about his logging approach—and the equipment he executes that approach with, such as this Hitachi 260 processor —beginning on page 18 of this issue (photo courtesy of Pro Link Logging).
B.C. partnership steps up to the plate in training equipment operators
The City of Quesnel, B.C. and partners are looking to step up to the plate to train logging equipment operators on harvesting methods new to most B.C. loggers.
Virtual convention coming up
The BC Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention is going virtual for 2021, and we talk with COFI CEO Susan Yurkovich about the compelling speakers and the important issues in forestry that will be discussed at the convention in April—and what new U.S. President Joe Biden might mean for the industry.
Dealing with changing logging logistics
Logging contractor Tyler Backer is dealing with changing logging logistics in the B.C. Interior these days, such as working in steeper ground—but he has the dedicated people and tough iron to successfully take it all on.
Landrich 2.0 is launched
The Landrich harvester 2.0 version has been launched by New Brunswick’s A. Landry Fabrication, and the new machine features a number of improvements suggested by very loyal customers of the original Landrich harvester.
Enhancing pellet production—and quality—at Pinnacle
Pinnacle Renewable Energy recently completed a $30 million investment package in B.C.’s Cariboo region designed to enhance pellet production efficiency—and product quality.
Big recovery boost for Quebec mill with upgrade
The Bois CFM Inc. sawmill in Sainte-Florence, Quebec recently installed a new optimized primary and secondary line from USNR to meet growing customer demand, that will move its production to the next level.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC), FPInnovations and the Faculty of Forestry of University of B.C.
The Last Word
Jim Stirling takes a look ahead for the forest industry, beyond the recent elections, and COVID-19.