(LNTCFS photo)

Lower North Thompson Community Forest makes small mill enterprises work

A webinar, hosted by the BC Community Forest Association took place on Dec. 8 for members only.

According to the 2020 Indicators report, most of the logs harvested on community forests went to very large, and large mills, and only two of 27 participating community forests are operating their own mill.

A focus of the BCCFA webinar was: With access to a long-term timber supply, do community forests have opportunities to add value to their harvested timber and to expand local employment through the establishment of their own small milling operation?

Featured in the presentation were two community forests – Harrop Procter, and Lower North Thompson – who are making their small mill enterprises work for their communities.

Also featured was Damon Zirnhelt who, along with his brother, manages a woodlot, a couple of small mills and a timber frame business in 150 Mile House.

Christoph Schilling, Indigenous Forestry Program Specialist from FP Innovations, also took part as a resource person in the discussion.

A year long project between the Lower North Thompson Community Forest Society (LNTCFS) and the Simpcw First Nation was highlighted. This project saw four to six participants gain work experience in milling and completing prefab construction of five 18`x 22` timber frame cabins for the planned Simpcw Cultural Education Centre location on Dunn Lake near Little Fort. Barriere’s Rick Proulx and Uli Migl supervised the project and construction of the guest cabins.

It was also noted that the LNTCFS continue to invest in economic development at their mill site in the Barriere Industrial Park. They have upgraded their band mill to a 3-phase electric powered Woodmizer LT50 and have installed a 4-sided moulder/planer unit to facilitate table production for recreation sites and trails. They currently have two employees working in the milling and carpentry operations.

In an effort to reduce and manage the risk of wildfire within and adjacent to the community forest area, the LNTCFS retained Forsite Consultants in 2019 to complete a Wildfire Risk Management Plan (WRMP) for the community forest and surrounding area. The plan is now complete, and they are now pursuing implementation to address areas of identified risks within the community forest. As an area-based license and community held asset, the intention and overall objective of the LNTCFS for this project is to reduce the risk of catastrophic loss due to fire.

The LNTCFS also has expanded employment opportunities with their small mill enterprise by providing firewood for area businesses and residents, as they now enter their third winter of processing, selling and delivering firewood. This venture provides local employment and economic activity within the area. There are currently two full-time employees processing and delivering firewood. They have also acquired an oversized log splitter to help break down and utilize large logs for processing, as well as installing a new 40’ x 100’ concrete slab to improve efficiency of the operation.