By Andru McCracken
According to the Province’s Forest Minister Doug Donaldson, Valemount and McBride could gain from government programs being developed to transform the province’s hurting forest industry.
Donaldson sent an appeal to the federal Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi last week for help for forestry workers and British
Columbian communities impacted by a ravaged forest industry. Included in his request was a program to help transition the industry towards new horizons, including bioenergy.
The impact of insect outbreaks, wildfires, habitat restriction combined with low lumber prices in the U.S. have caused widespread curtailment of both timber harvesting and wood manufacturing in B.C.
Manager of the Valemount Community Forest and Valemount Industrial Park Craig Pryor said help is welcome.
“Whatever programs are available, if we can tie into them, we will,” said Pryor.
The Valemount Community Forest is in the process of procuring a sawmill for undersized wood to work in conjunction with a recently purchased oversized wood mill, but there is a looming struggle that must be solved for either to become operational: what to do with wood waste.
Wood waste was a factor in the closure of the long-running Hauer Brothers Mill which used a beehive burner until the government outlawed the polluting incinerator.
Pryor said the community forest has options but barriers exist.
“We’re not very big on the scale, so our resources are very limited,” he said. “There are a bunch of options out there, most of them cost a lot of money.”
Pryor said the community forest has been shut out of other provincial programs in the past. They had hoped to tie into a program called Forests for Tomorrow, established in 2005, but it was specific to areas particularly hard hit by the pine beetle and forest fires.
Pryor hopes that the federal and provincial governments are flexible and inclusive of communities that need the help.
Donaldson said his Ministry’s focus on forestry transformation plays to Valemount and McBride’s aspiration to set up bioenergy programs.
“[It] is an emphasis on converting from conventional products to engineered wood, pulp and bioenergy. That’s going to benefit communities to have that as part of their economic vision. I see the benefits of these far beyond the direct communities being impacted right now,” said Donaldson.
Pryor said they are currently considering three cogeneration plants that could be purchased and moved to Valemount. They are also working with Philip Marsh and his company BC BioCarbon.
“That one plant alone would take all our waste,” said Pryor.
“We’re also watching this [torrefied] pellet plant proposed for McBride; if that goes that would take all the waste.”