BY BILL PHILLIPS
Premier Christy Clark rolled out two funding announcements during a brief stop in Prince George Wednesday.
Speaking to about 600 at a B.C. Natural Resources Forum luncheon, Clark announced $27 million for a caribou recovery program and a $4.5 Wood Innovation Research Lab, which is a joint project involving the province, Ottawa and the city.
“Twenty-seven million dollars for an enhanced caribou recovery program,” said Clark. “That’s going to enhance habitat protection, it’s going to grow our ability to do research and monitoring, it’s going to support a maternal penning project, it’s going to help us control predator management.”
One of the first items to be completed will be a strategic action plan specific to the Quintette herd in the South Peace. Additional maternal penning projects, designed to increase calf survival of new caribou are also being contemplated. There are currently two maternal penning projects, one near Revelstoke and the other near West Moberley.
There are 51 woodland caribou herds in British Columbia divided into four groups: southern mountain, central mountain, northern mountain, and boreal.
The move is being applauded by the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.
“The Wild Hart mountains are the last contiguous intact forest landscape in the South Peace and home to the Quintette and other northern caribou herds,” said Candace Batycki, Y2Y’s B.C. and Yukon Program Director. “Protection and restoration of this landscape would be a critical first step toward restoring these animals to their historic population and ensuring Treaty 8 is upheld.”
Treaty 8 First Nations have the legal right to hunt caribou, but have not been able to exercise this right since the 1970s, she said.
The second announcement will change the look of downtown Prince George.
The $4.5 million Wood Innovation Research Lab, to be built adjacent to the Wood Innovation and Resource Centre, will be used by students in the master of engineering in integrated wood design program at UNBC and the B.C. leadership chair in tall wood and hybrid structures engineering.
The province is kicking in $2.62 million, the feds are contributing $1.88 million and the city is contributing the land.
“They are already doing incredible work out at UNBC creating structures with wood that cut energy consumption up to 90 per cent,” said Clark. “They are thinking about the future, they are helping us to find ways to persuade the world to use wood to fight climate change. We are going to support the vision of (UNBC President) Dan Weeks … to make sure that we are able to grow innovation when it comes to building wood structures.”
The one-storey, 900-square-metre building will create a state-of-the-art wood-engineering research facility. The new building will expand possibilities for collaboration with external researchers and industry by providing unique capabilities for testing and researching wood structures. It will include a wood conditioning and processing room, office and seminar/classroom space, and a research lab that can also be used for teaching.
Construction will meet requirements under the Wood First Act, and will incorporate a high-performance building envelope that strives for Passive House certification. Structures built to this certification may cut their heating energy consumption by up to 90 per cent, and overall energy consumption between 60 per cent and 70 per cent.
The new lab will provide additional dedicated research and classroom space for UNBC, which currently occupies the first three floors of the adjacent Wood Innovation and Design Centre that opened in October 2014. In addition to UNBC, WIDC also houses the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations.
“In the two years since the Wood Innovation Design Centre opened in Prince George, UNBC has developed an innovative master of engineering in integrated wood design that incorporates structural and sustainable design, wood science and wood processing,” said Weeks. “This new building is a welcome investment in the future of northern B.C. Its amenities will enable UNBC students and researchers to test theories and develop new, marketable products that contribute to B.C.’s reputation as a leader in wood construction.”
Mayor Lyn Hall said the city was glad to offer up the land because of the partnership the city has with UNBC.
“Attracting more students downtown is critical to our revitalization efforts and enhancing Prince George’s capacity for forest product innovation is perfectly aligned with our economic development strategy,” said Hall.
Construction is slated to get under way in early 2017, generating 15 direct and 11 indirect jobs, with substantial completion expected by spring 2018, according to the provincial press release.