By Tony Kryzanowski
As Canada’s forest industry confronts issues such as wood supply shortages and climate change impacts, the Technology Development Group of the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) is ready to assist with innovative and proven approaches to reforestation that deliver multiple benefits.
Leveraging its decades of experience developing reforestation and more recently afforestation practices, CWFC can provide industry with novel approaches that focus on higher yield, species and values diversity, and enhanced reforestation practice efficiency.
Applying this technology will also allow industry to take advantage of the Growing Canada’s Forests Program, which aims to plant two billion incremental trees over the next 10 years.
One suggested approach is afforestation of fast growing tree species with the objective of expanding the forest. Afforested lands are those that have not had a forest cover for several decades but are receptive to tree species that can deliver high production rates while helping to battle climate change through carbon sequestration, risk reduction and species diversity through the use of hardwoods.
CWFC’s baseline projection for growth trajectory of its high yield hybrid poplar clones is one centimetre in diameter (DBH) and one metre in height on an annual basis as a minimum. Its growth charts with predicted trajectories have been customized over the past 20 years to identify clones suitable for specific soil and site characteristics. These genetically identical hybrid poplars, bred in Canada, vary in shape and/or biomass distribution relative to their physiology and site suitability.
As shown in these images, CWFC has developed systems where several suitable clones/species are planted in monoculture blocks in a systematic pattern on each plantation site with identical customized vegetation management applications to manage risk and maximize production.
Pictured is a 1.5-year-old hybrid poplar plantation established with rooted cuttings planted at 1600 stems per hectare and 2.5 metre by 2.5 metre spacing. This image was taken in July 2021 and depicts growth on average of 2 to 3 centimetres per day during this particularly hot and dry 2021 growing season. A refined vegetation management treatment shown below the tree was completed using a rotor tiller mounted on a farm tractor, mixing the top 4 to 5 centimetres of soil, while incorporating the competing vegetation into the nutrient and biomass base. The trees themselves benefited from the high heat, responding phenomenally to high soil temperatures with the root established in 2020 still able to access moisture. The minimum soil temperature required for root growth is 12 degrees Celsius in the rooting environment for rooted cuttings and 18 degrees Celsius in the rooting environment for non-rooted vegetative cuttings. On this site, the soil temperature with refined vegetation management was in the range of 21 degrees to 23 degrees Celsius during the extreme heat.
This image depicts one of five species of hybrid poplar clones planted on the same site after one year of growth. The plantation features intensive vegetation management and this particular clone averaged 1.3 metres of growth after one year. By the end of this growing season, it is expected to reach up to 2.1 metres in height. The tree was 180 centimetres in height in this August 4th photo.
The photo at right is a close-up of five days of growth in this plantation during late-July 2021, totaling 21 centimetres and benefitting from the heat and long sunlight hours in central Alberta.
It is possible to develop a mixedwood afforestation plantation, as shown, where white spruce is planted with the hybrid poplar. In this image, the hybrid poplar was harvested after 16 years and now, three years later, the white spruce is flourishing with accelerated growth, having been established in a hardwood understorey. This mixedwood site benefits from fire and pest risk reduction, species and habitat diversification, and more carbon sequestration resulting from accelerated growth of the hybrid poplar. It was mature at year 16 and the released white
spruce is now 3.5 to 5.5 metres in height.
Canada is home to over 1.6 million Indigenous people living in hundreds of communities throughout the provinces and territories. Many of the Indigenous communities are located in forested areas and are seeking to actively participate in the forest sector and develop economic opportunities, but also provide a different perspective on how to manage and live with our forest resources.
FPInnovations has implemented a program that supports Indigenous communities in the development of forest-based economic opportunities, and has established collaborations that deliver positive results for those communities. The assistance provided has been articulated in different ways, ranging from economic development plans to support programs.
Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation: achieving energy autonomy
One First Nation that saw significant benefits to their community is the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation. Located in central British Columbia, with their main territory stretching to the west of Quesnel along the Black Water River, the community is not connected to the power or natural gas grid and relies on diesel and propane supplies being brought in along the two-hour drive on a forest services road.
In recent years, the area surrounding the community has been heavily affected by the mountain pine beetle outbreak, and consequently experienced intense wildfires. Apart from the immense devastation of the immediate area around the community, these disturbances caused severe consequences for traditional land use such as hunting and trapping, berry picking, and medicine.
An unexpected source of energy
Protecting the community from future wildfires while re-establishing the land base became the key focus for the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation.
“This is where FPInnovations was called upon to provide guidance on identifying a solution that could not only protect the community from wildfire, but also utilize biomass materials around the Kluskus,” says Christoph Schilling, lead of FPInnovations’ Indigenous Program. FPInnovations suggested to go one step further and make use of the biomass to provide sustainable heat and power to the community.
In initial discussions with Allan Okabe, band manager for the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, it became clear to FPInnovations that the key need was to reduce the amount of biomass around the community to mitigate the fire risk. FPInnovations suggested focusing on the immediate area around Kluskus, taking advantage of FireSmart operations—a program aimed at reducing the risk that wildfires pose to populated areas—to fuel a potential combined heat and power unit.
A feasibility study revealed that the approach was a good fit for the small community and the idea was received positively by the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation.
Thinning work to reduce the level of fire risk was already underway, yielding the equivalent of 10 hectares (about 2,000 cubic metres) of dead standing trees which could be used to fuel the unit. Harvested trees already showed great potential to be processed into chips or fuel for the cogeneration system.
The Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system project
With clear marching orders in hand, researchers from FPInnovations identified a suitable CHP system. Made in Finland, the mobile ‘Volter’ unit, installed in a 40’ shipping container, allows for the generation of heat and energy by converting forest biomass into a wood gas, and then transforming it into 110 kW of heat and 40 kW of power. Stringent tests, predominantly on feedstock quality, were carried out at FPInnovations in Vancouver. The trial period also allowed for a training session, provided by Volter, to 10 members of the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation.
Positive outcomes for the community and the environment
For the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation of Kluskus, the installation of a CHP system in their community is expected to yield very positive results. Upon installation, the unit will displace close to 100,000 litres of diesel per year, significantly reducing the community’s reliance on fossil fuels. From an environmental perspective, the system will also remove the equivalent of 300 tonnes of GHG emissions annually, the equivalent of removing 65 cars from the road each year.
The system will create two full-time jobs to operate the unit and five to 10 additional jobs in the feedstock supply chain. The business model also significantly changed the economics of the community; while, historically, the community has had to purchase diesel for the operation of the generators, this money will now remain within and benefit the community directly.
The Lhoosk’uz Dené community also plans to produce biomass from harvested trees, an activity that could represent an additional source of income, as well as use the heat from the CHP to achieve food security and for silviculture projects. But above all, these measures will help protect the community, and restore the natural forest environment.
A unique approach adapting to each project
FPInnovations’ Indigenous forestry program is primarily a support tool designed to adapt to the actual needs of communities, rather than a one-dimensional approach. Thanks to the continuous funding support from many partners, including British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, the Innovation, Bioeconomy and Indigenous Opportunities Branch and Western Economic Diversification Canada, the program pursues its objectives of developing and implementing customized and scalable economic development opportunities, while providing innovation and creating employment opportunities for Indigenous Communities.
For more information about FPInnovations’ program, please contact Christoph Schilling, Program Lead, at 604-225-5205 or at [email protected].
On the Cover:
For the San Group, which has been finishing the first sawmill to be built on the B.C. Coast in 15 years, the last year has come with special challenges. But they have been able to successfully meet these challenges head-on. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Langley, B.C.-based company has built a greenfield sawmill/reman operation in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. Read all about this new cutting edge sawmill beginning on page 8 of this issue (Cover photo courtesy of The San Group).
A great ride in B.C.’s forest industry
B.C. Interior logger Bill Litke has ridden the rollercoaster that is the ups and downs of the forest industry over many decades—and it’s been an adventurous ride.
B.C. gets a new sawmill, on Vancouver Island
The San Group is wrapping up work on a major new small log sawmill in Port Alberni, B.C.—and there are more investments to come for the B.C.-based company owned by the Sanghera Family.
Focus on fir—and timbers
A focus on Douglas fir and timbers have proven to be the keys to success at Alberta’s HC Forest Products—so much so that they have purchased another sawmill, in B.C.
Family roots run deep in forestry
Father and son loggers Basil and Chris Isbill have a rich family history in New Brunswick logging that includes setting up equipment manufacturing company Forax—and Basil still heading out to the woods every day at the tender age of 78.
LSJ takes a look at the new developments and technologies in Small/Portable Sawmilling.
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) and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
Tony Kryzanowski talks about how the success of an Ontario wood products business cluster shows the value of much-needed outreach in the forest industry.