Making Chips and Protecting Communities: Logging in the Urban/Rural Interface

Photo: Lee Pratt, Mayor of Cranbrook (left), and Andy McCuaig, Fibre Superintendent at our Skookumchuck mill (right) are visiting our current operation just outside of Cranbrook.

Andy McCuaig, Fibre Superintendent at our Skookumchuck mill, is leading the charge in wildfire risk reduction logging.

This successful three-way partnership between the City of Cranbrook, Paper Excellence and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) means both Paper Excellence and the local community benefit. Paper Excellence gets hog and chips at competitive prices and the community of Cranbrook get reduced wildfire risk because the forests close to town are logged.

“The whole angle around fire protection is a huge public interest for people,” says Gavin Baxter, General Manager of Skookumchuck. “We’ve had forest fires on our doorstep before.” In fact, Gavin and Andy toured Mayor Lee Pratt in January so he could see the impact the work is having on the community.

“Currently, we’re really focused on the south side of Cranbrook. In this area the tenure holders—Canfor, Galloway, and BCTS—have already logged. We’re the fourth and final piece of the puzzle,” explains Andy. “First, we came in and ground hog fuel after the tenure holders had finished logging and then we came in to clear out the smaller, less economical wood.”

“The rule is there must be 100% utilization–we can’t burn anything, and we’ll get fined for leaving fibre behind,” explains Andy. “The logging contractor we’re working with has embraced some non-traditional methods so instead of falling the trees, skidding them (moving them to the road) and then chipping them we’re chipping whole trees right after they’re felled.”

This work happens through the Wildfire Risk Reduction program run by FLNRORD, through that program Andy bids on contracts with a per hectare price. “Paper Excellence has an advantage because we’re not interested in saw logs. Low value wood is what we want,” says Gavin. “Andy bids so that we’re bringing in fibre at our budget price. He could bid higher, but our goal is to support this important work and extend the program as much as possible. I’m proud of what we’re accomplishing here. Everyone in the forest industry has played their part and government has coordinated it.”

Paper Excellence has also accessed some funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to help with the cost of trucking the hog fuel. “This funding in place to encourage businesses to access uneconomical fibre,” says Andy. “In this case, it makes up the difference on hauling costs so we can bring hog in on budget.”

Gavin and Andy plan to continue this work as long as there’s funding and they’re focusing on Kimberly next. “That community was on evacuation alert two years ago and their mayor is eager for Paper Excellence to get started,” said Gavin.