Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Observer.

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Observer.

FOREST INK: Private and public funding critical for forest decarbonization

Jim Hilton pens a column for the Quesnel Cariboo Observer each week

In my opinion one of the most significant announcements from COP26 was by Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of Canada and Bank of England, who managed to sign up all major western banks to his Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, (GFANZ) enabling him to announce the $130 trillion of private capital directed to meaningful decarbonization.

Access to funds is critical for decarbonization in provincial forest programs. For example The Forest Enhancement Society of BC. (FESBC) has been very effective in supporting projects around the province that fit its mandate. The B.C. government has invested $238 million in FESBC, of which $237.6 million has been allocated for 269 forest enhancement projects as of March 2021.

Some examples included the following: 10.4 million trees were planted on approximately 8,800 hectares, and the growing of another 34.65 million seedlings for planting in future years and supporting the utilization of approximately 865,000 cubic metres of uneconomic residual fibre that would otherwise have been burned.

The citizens the Cariboo will be familiar with many of the wild fire management activities around their communities that thinned and pruned stands and sent a lot of the residual material to bioenergy plants or for wood pellet production.

Another good example was described by Jim Stirling in the latest Logging and Sawmilling Journal.

Seaton Forest Products is a venture focused on utilizing low grade wood — but it’s generating a raft of high grade benefits.

This small sawmilling company located near Witset (Moricetown) in the Bulkley Valley region of west central British Columbia is providing local jobs as well as reducing the carbon footprint. Like all good entrepreneurs, the principals behind Seaton Forest Products were hoping to find practical uses for regionally sourced fibre that no else was using.

In the case of Kirsteen Laing (the administrator) and Andy Thompson (manager) with Seaton, they found it in the form of dry, decadent balsam. The fibre-type now comprises about 80 per cent of their wood basket with the balance in dry pine and spruce.

The desiccated wood is riddled with cracks and checks. Those defects often result in minimal returns for the large scale dimension lumber producing mills which dominate the B.C. Interior. So it’s been left in the forest. But when manufactured into cants (i.e. six by six inch) , the discarded wood is in demand for the options it presents to sectors of the construction materials market in China.

Seaton Forest Products ability to turn “wasted” wood into viable products, reduce carbon emissions and create jobs mostly for aboriginal workers attracted the interest of the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. (FESBC). The FESBC, with the support of the federal government, invested $2.5 million in Seaton Forest Products in 2018 to support a three-and-a-half-year long project.

READ MORE: Quesnel value-added mill presents to council

Essentially what the funding allows is for Seaton to go further afield than it could otherwise afford to do in search of its dry, decadent wood fibre source. It means spreading the benefits further. More wood that no one else wants is removed from the bush so it doesn’t end up being burned, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, or simply being left on site where it becomes a wildfire liability. The funding also helps sustain the employment opportunities Seaton Forest Products is able to offer.

Lots of residual wood is still being burned on landings or left in the harvested areas throughout the province which means the loss of potential wood fibre along with jobs. With increasing timber losses due to pests, wildfires and impacts of climate change future funding will be critical in projects like the ones discussed above.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com

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