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Forestry project cuts carbon, boosts Bulkley jobs

Funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) is helping a small mill in the Bulkley Valley turn wood waste into products it can sell, reduce carbon emissions and create local jobs.

Seaton Forest Products, located nine kilometres west of the Wet’suwet’en village of Witset (formerly Moricetown) and 30 kilometres west of Smithers, received $2.5 million from FESBC in 2018. It is two years into a three-and-a-half-year project funding the diversion of 170,000 cubic metres of fibre from distant cutblocks to manufacture into lumber and wood chips.

“This FESBC project supports the use of fibre that would otherwise go to waste, while creating jobs for local communities, including Indigenous communities,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “It’s great to see this funding already making a difference by reducing wildfire risk and carbon emissions, while building up local economies.”

The FESBC grant is funding 22 in-forest fibre-recovery jobs over the project. Meanwhile, the Seaton mill employs another 22 people, including approximately 15 from local Indigenous communities.

About half the recovered fibre is manufactured into cants – large squared-off logs that can be processed into smaller lumber products – and exported to China. The rest is chipped, sold to Pinnacle Renewable Energy in Smithers and processed into pellets.

“This funding improves our ability to have consistent access to wood and become part of the supply chain, as we use half the log for product and chip and ship the rest to be processed into pellets,” said Andy Thompson, manager, Seaton Forest Products. “While most larger mills require more wood and green wood, we are able to take the logs others cannot utilize and would have normally been either left in the bush and/or burnt.”

Including the FESBC-funded fibre recovery, Seaton is able to secure a total of 80,000 cubic metres of wood waste a year. Using the wood waste means it won’t be burnt to release carbon or left on site where it can be a wildfire risk.

“FESBC is excited to provide funding to enable operations like Seaton Forest Products to utilize fibre outside their current economic radius that would traditionally have been burned at the cutblock,” said Gord Pratt, operations manager, FESBC. “FESBC is pleased to assist the Province in meeting its goals of increasing fibre utilization and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by funding projects like this one with Seaton. Projects like this also often create much-needed local employment opportunities.”

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada.

“There are very few employment opportunities in this area, so to provide up to 22 jobs is pretty significant,” Kirsteen Laing, administrator, Seaton Forest Products. “If we have a good wood supply, it supports one shift year-round. If the markets are down, then we can have some down time. It’s beneficial for us to use what we can and send the rest to the pellet plant. Here, we’re able to put more people to work and support the economy with an annual supply of 80,000 cubic metres.”

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