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Chilcotin First Nations work together to increase wood-fibre use

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

A $1 million grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. will increase use of waste wood fibre, bring more wood products to market and support forestry jobs in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region.

Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. is a joint venture company owned by the Tŝideldel First Nation (Alexis Creek First Nation) and the Tl’etinqox government (Anaham First Nation). The first phase of this project began in early 2017, when a $3.4-million grant from FESBC allowed the company to reduce wildfire risks and rehabilitate forests impacted by mountain pine beetles west of the Anaham community.

The $1-million grant that FESBC provided in 2019 funds the second part of the project. Beginning in September 2019, it focuses on recovering and using at least 200,000 cubic metres of waste wood fibre that accumulated during the first phase of the project.

“This project demonstrates how factoring in greater waste-fibre utilization in projects like this generates multiple benefits,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “First Nations leadership has reduced wildfire risks and rehabilitated forests, and now the company is ensuring that the residual fibre is also put to good use.”

Waste wood is normally burned on site to help reduce wildfire risks. However, the grant provided by FESBC allows Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. to divert the residual fibre for other purposes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by not burning the material in slash piles. It is expected that the grant will support the full-time equivalent employment of about nine loggers, truckers and other forestry workers.

Recovered pulp-grade logs are being hauled to Cariboo Pulp in Quesnel. The remaining material is being ground up by Tsi Del Del Ltd. and shipped to either Pinnacle Renewable Energy’s pellet plant or sent to Atlantic Power to generate electricity, both located in Williams Lake.

“This funding allows us to maximize our ability to deliver a by-product that is typically left on site, increase the overall recovery of fibre and create long-term carbon benefits by harnessing new values from traditional logging sites outside of the saw log fibre supply,” said Percy Guichon, director, Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd.

The two First Nations that operate the company hold multiple forest licences. They aim to increase their use of waste wood, bringing an additional 20 per cent to 50 per cent of leftover wood fibre to market. Without the FESBC grant, it would be uneconomical to recover the waste wood fibre.

“Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. has been working on several FESBC-funded projects to reduce wildfire risks, by removing vegetation in specified areas to establish large fuel breaks that can slow the growth of a wildfire,” said Dave Conly, operations manager, FESBC. “That work creates a large amount of uneconomic wood, but that residual fibre can be utilized for pulp and wood pellets, or to generate power.”

The recovery effort has resulted in 200,000 cubic metres of residual fibre (about 3,300 truckloads) being used since the project started in September 2019, generating between $7 million and $8.5 million in sales for a product that would otherwise be burned.

“This project is allowing First Nation-owned businesses to expand capacity and expertise as the forest industry transitions from a harvest economy to a forest-management economy,” said Hugh Flinton, forestry manager, Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd.

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