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FOREST INK: Develop a national strategy to salvage wood burned in wildfires

This approach could be a window of opportunity to consider other options to mill closures
Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for Black Press Media. (File photo)

As expected, the latest Logging Sawmill Journal (LSJ fall 2023) had some articles about this year’s wildfires. Tony Kryzanowski was emphasizing the need for the forest industry and government to develop a national strategy to salvage as much of the merchantable wood fibre that is possible that burned this summer before it decays.

As he points out this could be a window of opportunity to consider other options to mill closures but it will be a short-term supply of cheap wood. He then goes on to discuss the longer-term changes that need to take place to deal with the increasing wildfire season. It is time to talk about developing reforestation plans where harvested mixed-wood stands are returned to mixed-wood forests instead of being converted to softwood mono cultures.

I would propose this would certainly mean not using herbicides to suppress the hardwoods but look for ways to process and market them as useful products. Another source of logs will be the material coming from wildfire protection areas. Government funding of these projects will go much farther if some income is derived from the forest products removed from the fire proofing stands. We also must develop uses for the smaller residual material that comes from the smaller stems. In the United States, most of this material is at least burned in containers that helps maximize the production of biochar.

There just happens to be another article in the recent LSJ about a hardwood mill in Quebec that produces high quality products shipped all over the world.

The Amex Bois Franc along with the Vigneault Family has its operation based in Plessisville which is known as the “World’s maple capital” because of maple syrup and maple trees, birch, basswood, beech and other hardwoods. What is interesting is that Amex sources about 75 per cent of their wood from the northeastern United States. They take advantage of trucking operations that take flat bed loads from Quebec to the States and haul sawlogs on their back-hauls to the sawmill.

In another LSJ article by David Elstone he describes how Quebec and Ontario have 2.29 and 3.03 jobs per thousand cubic meters harvested respectively compared to 1.01 for British Columbia which exported 3.3 million m3 logs in 2021. Between 2018 and 2021 Quebec imported an average of 2.7 million m3 of logs per year. Other reasons for the higher ratio of jobs is due to the larger pulp and paper sector which produces more jobs than saw milling and more small manufacturing mills compared to the large more efficient B.C. mills. While we don’t have the wide diversity of the eastern hardwoods, our poplar and birch trees can be made into decent lumber and chip products as well as OSB production. As we increase our amount of hardwood forests for fire mitigation reasons, perhaps the greater abundance of hardwood logs will also stimulate the market as we learn to manufacture quality products.

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About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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