Last week a group of retired foresters visited the North Vancouver Island to see different aspects of BC forestry. The group consisted of men who combined have over 400 years of experience in the forest industry and sciences. WFP was kind enough to send me on one of their tour days in the Port McNeill area. The 11 retirees and the working professionals planned an introduction and explanation of how forestry in the North Island is different than other areas in BC. Western was the main host because they are the main timber company here or Tree Farm grantee.
Stop #1: Dryland Sorts
We visited the lower and upper dryland sorts. The lower sort is the main sort where logs are dropped into the water after being graded and scaled. Jerry the yard foreman discussed how the majority of North Island’s timber moves through the lower dryland sort. There are 6 decks for graders and scalers to work safely around the machines. The Wagner or Stacker can pick up to 40 tons or an entire log bundle and dump it into the water.
At the upper dryland sort export logs are stored. Export logs are all trucked or transported to this yard to collect enough to make a boom. They are then pulled to the south Island to be placed on a container ship. Poles are also stored here, laid out for buyers to grade and bid. There is also a weigh scale where more uniform loads can be weighed instead all scaled by hand.
Stop #2: Orca Sand & Gravel
The Orca Gravel pit has incredible scale. They have a special use permit on Western’s Crown granted lands. They are allowed to produce 128 million tons of rock material. It opened in 2007, seriously bad timing. Annually they export 4-6 million tons to California, usually San Francisco. They mine, they sort, they clean, and they export. This market is heavily dependent on the economic stability. Almost once a week a barge shows up to ship 40 tons of gravel to San Francisco. A conveyor belt runs under the highway, about 500m to the ocean, to the transport barge.
The way the rocks are mined is with these huge tractor scrapers that drive along the bottom of the pit assisted with another to push along the floor until full. Each scraper can collect up to 4 tons of material. They then bring it to the plant it self to sort and clean. The piles are on top of sieves that can move the material with a shaking motion along conveyor belt to export.
|Waste Management Site off Misty Main|
Stop #3: Waste and Stumpage Program
Western recently partnered with a local contractor who utilizes the left over waste from clear-cut harvests. We visited the first block the partnership began with. WFP must pay for the left over wood or stumpage to the Crown. By partnering with this contractor multiple parties benefit while additional use is made of the waste without additional cost. The wood is used for Sea Soil. It is chipped up and mixed in with fish waste products to create a nutrient rich soil for home gardens. You may even be able to find it in your local Home Depot. The logs are grinded in my front ‘yard’. It’s loud…
Stop #4: Quatren, First Nation’s Partnership
|Gord, Ralph, Dave, & Ray speaking about Quatren|
Next we visited an active harvest site to talk with First Nation, Quatsino leader Ralph and other Western employees active in the partnership discussions. Quatren is a partnership with the Quatsino Tribe and Western to work together so that both parties benefit from the forest resources. Quatren is a star child within Western to set an example to other branches to coexist in order for both parties to benefit. Together they share profits from working on Crown land 50-50.
In British Columbia the First Nation Tribes have great influence on industry. It is a touchy subject that brings out many opinions and challenges for communities and industries. Companies must recognize that they cannot survive long term without support of the communities they work in yet; it is difficult to please all parties.
Stop #5: Seven Hills Golf Course; Community Forests & Public Advisory Council
Seven Hill Golf Course is surrounded by prime forests but with acreage, sorry hectares of grass to play golf. It is located almost equally between three communities for best access. Again this area was located on Western’s Tree Farm License but given up to benefit the community with a special use permit. Now one can play golf and even aim at the bears that wander on to the course. We had yummy salmon burgers at the café while we heard two people talk.
The Community Forest is a partnership between Port McNeill, Port Hardy, and Port Alice; three communities in the North Island. A community forest is a special kind of land tenure that lasts forever granted by the crown. Out of the 57 in BC, their CF is 50th is size yet is also the most profitable. This has to do with the dedication of professionals. It doesn’t hurt that in Port McNeill alone there are 130 Register Professional Foresters out of the 4,000 residences. The towns act as shareholders and delegate a council appointed board of qualified forest professionals to maximize profits. All proceeds go equally directly into the communities. In the last four years that they have been in operation the communities have received funding that benefits sewer, power, hockey rinks, and curling clubs. The CF helps fund the nuts and bolts of the communities.
The Public Advisory Council is a group of professional representing public committees between Port McNeill and Port Hardy. I’ve had the pleasure to attend one such meeting so far. Anne Mary presented her perspective as an active member in the community on the importance of forestry activism and community involvement. Once again the urgency was repeated among those present the dire need for more training and interest in the forest industry to see it to continue successfully.
Stop #6: SCHIRP Research Project
|Annette, our informative SHRIP expert|
The SCHIRP or Salal Cedar Hemlock Integrated Research Project began in 1988 and has been a significant source of forest research in the North Island. This integrated project was to measure and monitor the interaction between forests and brush management. Salal in particular can grow particularly thick yet can grow successfully with western redcedar. This area has been a place of research for countless masters and PHD students that examined the complicated relationship with these ecosystems. They have seen some incredible results. The brief tour was a small introduction to the complexity of the many plots. However regular fertilization and high densities have seen great success in brush management and tree volumes.
Participating in the tour allowed me to meet, talk with, and listen to some of the most experience foresters in British Columbia. I hope to see some of them again because I know they can teach all foresters a thing or two. Hearing them talk and argue about current forest issues shows their dedication and love of forests. It inspires me to motivate others to consider working in the woods.