Feds fund three forestry-related Indigenous projects

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi (right) announces forestry-related funding with Luke Gleeson (left) director of lands, resources and treaty operations Tsay Keh Dene Nation, Michael Tilson general manager, Chu Cho Environmental, and Stan Morris Jr., manager, Kyahwood Forest Products. Bill Phillips photo
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi (right) announces forestry-related funding with Luke Gleeson (left) director of lands, resources and treaty operations Tsay Keh Dene Nation, Michael Tilson general manager, Chu Cho Environmental, and Stan Morris Jr., manager, Kyahwood Forest Products. Bill Phillips photo

Amarjeet Sohi didn’t come to the BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George empty-handed.

The federal natural resources minister announced $589,629 in funding for three separate forestry-related projects for northern Indigenous communities.

“When our government came into office we started from a simple premise, that no relationship is more important than the one we have with Indigenous peoples,” Sohi said.

The three projects announced are:

$475,000 for Chu Cho Environmental to support an Indigenous bioheat project in Tsay Keh Dene Nation as part of our commitment to creating good jobs and building a clean growth economy. The funding will enable Chu Cho Environmental — a Tsay Keh Dene Nation–owned company — to assess the feasibility of using biomass to generate heat and power. Once completed, this project would be among the first of its kind to heat and power an Indigenous community in the province, demonstrating the power of innovation to create opportunities in a remote community. This is the second project announced under Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities program. The goal of the program is to reduce the reliance of rural and remote communities on fossil fuel for heat and power with particular emphasis on Indigenous communities.

$64,629 for the Witset First Nation to support equipment upgrades, help train workers and enable new developments at the Kyahwood Forest Products facility located in Witset. This project was funded through NRCan’s Indigenous Forestry Initiative (IFI), which facilitates economic development in Indigenous communities that rely on forests. The Initiative is a featured component of Canada’s Softwood Lumber Action Plan.

$50,000 for Tzah Tez Tlee Development Corporation in Fort Babine to help launch a feasibility study on a biomass heating system using excess wood residues from the mill to reduce the community’s reliance on diesel and help it transition to a low-carbon economy. This opportunity was funded through the IFI and the Strategic Partnerships Initiative.

The Tsay Keh Dene biomass power facility represents a fundamental shift in the energy landscape of a remote community that has been reliant on diesel power for nearly three decades, ironically, is right next door to the province’s biggest battery – Williston Lake, said Michael Tilson general manager, Chu Cho Environmental

“Tsay Keh Dene Nation is focused on building a sustainable and prosperous future while preserving the natural environment and building pride, capacity, resilience and identity within its people,” he said. “Canada’s support of this project is deeply appreciated and is a clear indication that reducing the reliance of remote communities on diesel generated power is incredibly important. This project is a powerful and enduring centrepiece that will enable sustainable development in the community for decades on a scale that would otherwise be impossible.”

Witset (formerly Moricetown) was assisted with funding from the Indigenous Forestry Initiative. “This allowed Kyahwood Forest Products to add a dunnage and lath machine to the facility,” said Stan Morris Jr, manager, Kyahwood Forest Products. “This will enable Kyahwood to produce its own product for the finger-joint lumber we produce, rather than getting it elsewhere. In turn, this saves the company approximately $16,000 to $20,000 per year plus adding four permanent jobs, and any excess dunnage/lath produced can be sold on the open market, further increasing our revenue.”

Tzah Tez Tlee Development Corporation, a Fort Babine business entity fully owned by the Indigenous community will conduct assessment and feasibility work for a District Heating facility for Fort Babine, north of Smithers. The community is located in the middle of several active forest operations that leave biomass piles that are burned annually.

“This project hopes to provide the information to support a project that accesses this material and heats a cluster of several homes,” said Richard C. Braam, general manager, Tzah Tez Tlee Development Corporation. “The result of this funding could result in a more sustainable use of the carbon left in the forest, reducing the need for electric or fossil fuel heat. This project could also provide an economic opportunity for community members to access and supply the biomass to the heating facility.”