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Canadian Forest Industries Feature Article: First Nations-led project rehabilitates wildfire-impacted land

In the wake of significant challenges facing British Columbia’s forestry sector, including mill closures and timber supply shortages, Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation (CCR), a joint venture company owned by the Tŝideldel First Nation and the Tl’etinqox government, has taken a proactive approach to create new opportunities within the industry.

CCR’s videos, Trying Something New and What We Learned, explore these innovative approaches to manage and utilize damaged and burnt trees to create a higher value product like biomass and wood chips at their Pressy Lake project, as well as rehabilitate large areas of land.

“This initiative began when B.C. Premier David Eby called for innovative solutions at last year’s Council of Forest Industries conference, and he entrusted $50 million to the Forest Enhancement Society of BC,” said Percy Guichon, executive director of CCR.

“Our team and partners were motivated to secure funding to help tackle the challenge head-on. We believed we could utilize older, burnt fibre to help the forestry sector and rehabilitate the land with a ‘for generations’ approach. We’re very happy with the results.”

The lack of natural fire cycles and the subsequent over-growth of trees and accumulated fibre contributed significantly to the intensity of the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire, which consumed approximately 190,000 hectares.

The Pressy Lake project focused on the efficient extraction and utilization of seven-year-old burnt fibre on a large, 450+ hectare swath of land. The location of the work presented unique challenges due to its remote location, the brittleness of the burned trees, and the complexity that comes with good forest management. Despite these hurdles, CCR was confident to proceed, and the project created jobs and provided more insight into how to cost-effectively produce biomass products.

Steve Kozuki, executive director of FESBC is “thrilled that CCR adopted a fire-damaged uneconomic forest abandoned by the forest industry. CCR will help turn biomass into green energy and sustainable forest products and replant a new forest to accelerate ecological recovery and reduce greenhouse gases. It truly represents our commitment to sustainable forestry practices and showcases how we can turn challenges into opportunities.”

The Pressy Lake project also had a broader impact. By creating 25 new jobs and utilizing local services, the project had a positive effect on surrounding communities. Wood fibre from the project was shipped to Kruger Inc. pulp mill in Kamloops. This collaboration has helped support the biomass industry during a period of wood fibre scarcity and demonstrated the viable opportunity to transform and rehabilitate areas impacted by wildfire while creating value-added products.

“We are proud to collaborate with Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. on this transformative project,” said Tom Hoffman, fibre manager with Kruger’s mill in Kamloops. “By integrating sustainable practices and utilizing the fibre from this once-devastated area, we not only support the biomass industry during a period of scarcity but also contribute to the production of value-added products like paper and power. With the innovative techniques CCR is employing to extract fibre from these damaged and once-considered waste wood, it will revolutionize the fibre industry and the way we look at forestry in B.C.”

The release of a third video in early June will document tree planting with funding support from Natural Resources Canada, giving viewers an inside look into the efforts to reforest the area and showcasing the practical steps being taken to ensure the rehabilitation of the land.


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