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Grant to help First Nations JV utilise waste wood fibre for bioenergy

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A $1 million (€633,000) grant will help Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation increase the use of waste wood fibre, bring more wood products to market, and support forestry jobs in the area.

The grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) will support the joint venture company owned by the Tsideldel First Nation (Alexis Creek First Nation) and the Tl’etinqox government (Anaham First Nation).

The first phase of the project began in early 2017 when a $3.4 million (€2.15 million) grant from FESBC allowed the firm to reduce wildfire risks and rehabilitate forests impacted by mountain pine beetles near the Anaham community. The $1 million (€633,000) grant provided in 2019 supports the second phase of the project.

Starting in September 2019, the second step focuses on recovering and using at least 200,000 cubic metres of waste wood fibre that accumulated during the first phase of the project. Waste wood is usually burned on-site to help reduce wildfire risks; however, the FESBC grant allows Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation to divert the fibre for other purposes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by not burning the fibre in slash piles.

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said: “This project demonstrates how factoring in greater waste fibre utilisation in projects like this generates multiple benefits.

“First Nations leadership has reduced wildfire risks and rehabilitated forests, and now the company is ensuring that the residual fibre is also put to good use.”

Recovered pulp-grade logs are being transported to Cariboo Pulp in Quesnel. The remaining material is ground up by Tsi Del Del and shipped to either Pinnacle Renewable Energy’s wood pellet plant, or sent to Atlantic Power to generate electricity, both in Williams Lake.

“This funding allows us to maximise our ability to deliver a by-product that is typically left on-site, increase the overall recovery of fibre and create long-term benefits by harnessing new values from traditional logging sites outside of the sawlog fibre supply,” said Percy Guichon, director of the Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation.

The two First Nations operating the company hold multiple forest licenses. They aim to increase their use of waste wood, bringing an additional 20-50% of leftover wood fibre to market. Without the FESBC grant, it would be ‘uneconomical’ to recover the waste wood fibre.

Dave Conly, operations manager at FESBC, commented: “Central Chiltotin Rehabilitation has been working on several FESBC-funded projects to reduce wildfire risks, by removing vegetation in specified areas to establish large fuel breaks that can slow the growth of a wildfire.

“That work creates a large amount of uneconomic wood, but that residual fibre can be utilised for pulp and wood pellets, or to generate power.”

Since the project launch in September 2019, the recovery effort has resulted in around 3,000 truckloads of residual fibre being used, generating between $7 million (€4.43 million) and $8.5 million (€5.38 million) in sales for a product that would otherwise be burned.

Hugh Flinton, forestry manager at the Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation said: “This project is allowing First Nation-owned businesses to expand capacity and expertise as the forest industry transitions from a harvest economy to a forest management economy.”

The Government of Canada and the Province are jointly investing $290 million (€183 million) over five years in British Columbia’s forests to tackle climate change. The FESBC’s $1 million grant (€633,000) to this project was supported by the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund and the Forest Carbon Initiative.