by Andru McCracken

The Valemount Community Forest was able to catch up on burning piles of wood debris left over from logging operations thanks to helpful weather over the past weeks without smoking out Valemount, according to manager Craig Pryor.

But when it comes to lighting logging leftovers on fire, Pryor is not a fan.

“It’s a cost. It’s a liability. It is bad PR. There is not much good about burning,” said Pryor.

“We don’t want to burn; we’d rather use it.”

Pryor has been working hard on solutions. A pellet plant, for example, could turn that waste into useful fuel and create jobs for the community, he said.

But Pryor said pellet plants report being too far away to use waste wood from here. Typically they are set up next to super mills with a high volume of specific kinds of wood debris to work with, like spruce, pine and fir. Pryor said Valemount’s forest is much more diverse.

“We can’t do what they’re doing. We need something different,” he said.

There is hope on the horizon though. Pryor said charcoal-like torrefied pellets and carbon based products used in agriculture could hold the key to making good use of waste.

“We are trying to learn more about these new technologies to see if there is a fit in the Robson Valley,” he said.

The community forest realizes Valemount’s air quality is poor during certain times of the year and takes great care to burn piles in a responsible way to protect the residents of Valemount, Pryor says.

Another challenge facing the community forest is the amount of cedar and hemlock. Cedar will find a home at Cedar Valley Holdings, but hemlock, Pryor said, is a problem.

“Logging companies in the Robson Valley have been avoiding stands with non sawlog species for 60+ years. They have targeted harvesting in stands with none of this type of fibre wood and have partial cut stands leaving this fibre wood standing,” said Pryor.

“There is still enough to avoid these non sawlog species for a while longer but it is getting more difficult as each block is harvested,” he said.

“We have hauled sawlog hemlock to mills south of Valemount at a loss.”

Pryor said there is potential to break even if a local mill was setup to manufacture hemlock.

“We are looking for ways to use up the waste piles and fibre species of wood but we are too small to attract existing companies,” he said.

“The McBride and Dunster Community Forests have the same issues and we are starting to work with them to find a common fix to the problem.”