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Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. a leader in forest management

The Indigenous company pushes the boundaries of innovative forestry management techniques,\
CCR employees tree plant in the Chilcotin Plateau where wildfires ravaged the area in 2017. (Shell Canada Ltd. photo)

Priyanka KETKAR

Industrial Update 2023

With a primary focus on rehabilitating dead pine stands in the Chilcotin region and transforming them into productive forests, Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. (CCR) was established in 2017.

The severe wildfires that ravaged the region that same year reinforced the pressing need to restore the heavily burned forest stands with minimal economic value.

In response, CCR, which is a joint venture company owned by the Tŝideldel First Nation and the Tl’etinqox Government, applied for and received a grant of $3.4 million from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to reduce wildfire risk and restore mountain pine beetle-damaged forests near Alexis Creek.

Since then, CCR has continued to secure substantial grant funding from FESBC and partnered with other major players such as Natural Resources Canada, Shell Canada, and local companies like Tolko, Drax, and Atlantic Power to promote the rehabilitation and restoration of the Chilcotin forests.

Today, CCR continues to push the boundaries of innovative forestry management techniques, pioneering the use of drones in the region to direct seed fire-impacted forests in the Chilcotin plateau area.

In the fall of 2021, the company collaborated with DroneSeed (now Maste Reforestation) to conduct a trial project that utilized drones to distribute over half a million seed pucks in an area spanning nearly 52 hectares. This trial allowed for the quick and safe planting of seeds in a region where traditional tree-planting methods were challenged. While the trial covered only a small fraction of the reforestation area required from the 2017 wildfires, CCR saw the immense potential in using drones for reforestation on a larger scale in the future.

“I am proud to see how far CCR has come and to reflect on how we got to this point. It has been a long journey, and we have faced many challenges along the way, but through perseverance, hard work, and the support of our community, we have been able to make a positive impact on our land and people. Today, we are recognized as a leader in the forestry industry, and we are committed to continuing to innovate and explore new ways to manage and protect our forests for generations to come,” said Percy Guichon, executive director of CCR and councillor of Tŝideldel First Nation.

In addition to the funding that CCR has received through FESBC, Shell Canada and other forestry partners, it has also received substantial financial support from the Government of Canada.

Wildfires have increasingly become a serious issue as a result of climate change, leading to environmental devastation and air pollution. To help combat this issue, Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson announced in November 2022 that CCR would receive over $10 million toward reforestation efforts through the 2 Billion Trees program. The contribution is a part of the Federal government’s commitment to supporting reforestation initiatives across the country, which will aid in sequestering carbon to fight climate change, help improve air quality, promote biodiversity, and create sustainable jobs.

“With this funding, CCR will be able to continue its efforts to restore forest lands impacted by wildfires in our region, showcasing how successful partnerships with First Nations will create positive change for the environment and local communities,” said Guichon.

CCR has also been making news provincially, receiving recognition and nominations for multiple awards for its exceptional work in forest rehabilitation and management. Just last year, the company was presented with the award for ‘Business Partnership of the Year’ at the Indigenous Business Award Gala, celebrating the successes of Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs.

Earlier this year, CCR was also nominated for the Canadian SME Awards in the RBC Small Business of the Year category, acknowledging the strong business plan for growth and ability to take calculated risks in the forestry sector. And just two weeks ago, CCR was nominated for the Small Business of BC Awards under the Business Impact Award category, a testament to the company’s dedication and hard work in making a positive impact on the community.

“As an Indigenous business partnership, we are proud to represent the successes of Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs. Our success demonstrates that First Nations can take the lead in forest management and make significant contributions to the economy, while also being thoughtful stewards of the land,” said Guichon.

CCR’s success in the forestry sector is a testament to the leadership role of First Nations forest management. For generations, First Nations have relied on forest resources, and their deep understanding of the land has made them natural stewards of their traditional territories.

As an Indigenous business partnership of the Tŝideldel First Nation and the Tl’etinqox Government, CCR has demonstrated that First Nations people make significant strides in forestry through work driven by innovation, such as the drone technology they are deploying to reforest fire-damaged areas.

Next week, CCR’s Percy Guichon will be speaking on a panel for the BC First Nations Council, highlighting the important role of First Nations in forest management.

As First Nations become more involved in forestry, we will see the economic, social, and environmental benefits that can come with managing forest lands and resources. CCR, Tŝideldel, and other First Nations through their work are helping implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action to lead to systemic changes.

“It is important that our knowledge and experience are recognized,” remarked Guichon.

“We are grateful for the support we have received from various levels of government and other industry leaders. We hope our success will inspire other First Nations to pursue their own innovative projects in forestry, too.”