Mayor of Quesnel meets with B.C. government to advance ideas on forest management, fibre manufacturing

Mayor Simpson to follow up on forest industry recommendations after Quesnel’s Forestry Think Tank

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson is in the Lower Mainland this week, working to follow up on Quesnel’s Forestry Think Tank session, which tool place May 3-4 2018 at Quesnel’s North Cariboo Community Campus.

The Think Tank saw around 70 forestry sector professionals, as well as the Honourable Doug Donaldson from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), descend on Quesnel to explore opportunities to use the city as an “incubator” to accelerate research and development in the domains of alternative forest management and innovative manufacturing and processing of forest fibre.

READ MORE: Quesnel hosts Future of Forestry Think Tank

READ MORE: Quesnel Think Tank calls for ‘forest resiliency’ to keep sector viable

Simpson said that today, he will be visiting the University of British Columbia to tour FPInnovations’ lab. FPInnovations is a not-for-profit that researches and creates solutions for the Canadian forest sector. Simpson says he will discuss options for the reinvention of Quesnel’s forestry sector. Two of the panelists at the Forestry Think Tank session were from FPInnovations.

“On the manufacturing side, we think we need more commercial pilots. … With Quesnel’s manufacturing capacity, the idea of doing commercial pilots for alternate forest products and using forest fibre differently, we are well positioned to take advantage of that,” explained Simpson over the phone from Vancouver.

In Victoria, B.C. on Tuesday afternoon, Simpson said he will meet with the B.C. Community Forest Association and then with staff from FLNRORD. In a phone call, Simpson said his meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday will be to discuss forest sector initiatives coming out of the Think Tank that have to do with land base management.

“The only answer to all of these unprecedented events we have going on in the forest – pests, disease, drought, fire – … the only way to match that is an unprecedented change in the way we manage the forests,” he said.

Simpson explained that research ecologist Dr. Paul Hessburg’s model, which is being used in the Pacific Northwest, is something they’d like to use in Quesnel. Hessburg advocates for managing forests as a whole, rather than based on stands of trees.

“We would like to bring it up here and we are suggesting the government can pilot that different approach in the Quesnel timber supply area with West Fraser, Tolko and C&C Wood Products all participating in the process.”

Hessburg’s model was of the main ideas that gained popularity with delegates at May’s Forestry Think Tank.

Simpson said he and the other delegates will be speaking to senior government representatives about creating “resilient, adaptable forests – getting back to landscape-level planning.” To this end, Hessburg, fire ecologist Robert Gray and West Fraser’s BC Chief Forester Jeff Mycock will join Simpson on Wednesday to meet with the Premier’s Deputy Minister, Don Wright.

They will also have a separate meeting with Minister Donaldson’s political staff, the Deputy Minister FLNRORD, and the Acting Chief Forester before meeting with researchers from Natural Resources Canada.

Simpson explained that they want to brief these government representatives directly, “so we don’t get too far ahead of government and the get resistance you sometimes get when people are caught by surprise,” he explained.

“Our intent is to brief the senior decision-makers so they know what we are trying to accomplish, so they can be allies.”

Finally, on Thursday, Simpson will be spending the day touring a modular home manufacturing facility, and a number of modular home building sites which are for both market housing and BC Housing sponsored facilities.

“One of the outcomes of the Forestry Think Tank was a question on where we are going with construction, and this idea of moving into European-style modular home construction,” he said.

Simpson said there are a number of modular home manufacturing facilities that manufacture all the necessary pieces to erect buildings around the size of the new apartment buildings going up in Quesnel, on McLean and McNaughton Avenues, for example.

“They can put these up in around 10 days,” he said.

He explained that an idea would be to create a facility in Quesnel that could deal with the overflow from manufacturing companies that are already in existence.

“Every one of the modular home manufacturing companies is oversubscribed right now and are having a hard time meeting orders. So could we look at a facility in Quesnel where, rather than setting up a new company, we are just the overflow order company for all the ones that are oversubscribed? We are closer to the north, there are going to be thousands of new units of housing built in Northern B.C., and that’s going to go on for some time. So is this an opportunity to have a modular home manufacturing company in Quesnel? We have all the right players around the table if we looked at a more cooperative model to do that.”

In addition to advancing ideas from Quesnel’s Forestry Think Tank, Simpson is also working on Quesnel’s regional food innovation hub and will be touring a food processing centre with the Ministry of Agriculture.

“What I’m touring this afternoon is a private-sector bookable commercial kitchen. [The Ministry] wants to model the regional food innovation hub along these lines,” he said.

READ MORE: New agricultural development advisory committee a first for the North Cariboo

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