Skeena Sawmills pilot project thinned out trees so the remaining ones have more room to grow. Trees removed were either taken to Skeena Sawmills or chipped to provide pellet material for Skeena Bio-Energy. (Skeena Sawmills photo)

Skeena Sawmills pilot project thinned out trees so the remaining ones have more room to grow. Trees removed were either taken to Skeena Sawmills or chipped to provide pellet material for Skeena Bio-Energy. (Skeena Sawmills photo)

Pilot project thins out overgrown forest location

Immediate and long term logging and environmental benefits eyed

A pilot project to thin out an overdense, second-growth forest site south of Terrace could result in economic and environmental benefits provided the experience and results can be applied elsewhere in the area.

Originally logged more than 40 years ago for Eurocan, a company which once played a dominant role in the regional forest economy through a sawmill and a pulp and paper plant in Kitimat, the location was left to regenerate naturally.

But that meant the trees grew too close together, reducing their ultimate sawlog potential and severely limiting plant growth and space on the forest floor that could be attractive wildlife habitat.

The location, in close proximity to the Wedeene Forest Service Road, is within Tree Farm Licence 41, held by Skeena Sawmills, leading the company to apply to a provincially-financed agency for a grant to thin out the location.

Using a $370,000 grant from the Forest Renewal Society of B.C., a project containing a number of objectives was drawn up, says Whitney Lukuku, a Terrace-based forester hired by Skeena Sawmills.

READ MORE: Terrace Community Forests moves forward on forest-thinning project

The prime objective was to reduce the number of trees per hectare from the average 3,874 per hectare at the site by 75 per cent to 900 trees, considered the ideal number.

“Fewer trees mean they will put on more girth, thereby producing robust logs as opposed to small-pole size ones,” Lukuku noted.

The thinning that was done met two other objectives — Skeena Sawmills was able to take smaller-size logs for its mill and its sister operation, next door newly-opened Skeena Bio-Energy was the beneficiary of other material that was chipped for its pellet operation.

Skeena Sawmills forester Tim Moser said the company is so far pleased with the pilot project.

“Part of the reason we did this is that the trees weren’t simply large enough. What we’re looking for is more value,” he said of the expectation is that the trees that were left will now have more room to grow.

Of immediate benefit were the 46 truckloads of sawlogs taken to Skeena Sawmills and 69 trucks of chips taken to Skeena Bio-Energy.

The alternative was to leave the fibre behind or burn it, neither option being favourable, Moser noted.

The chips were produced on location with waste being fed directly into a chipper and then into a waiting truck, reducing the amount of dirt and mud that would reduce their usefulness for pellets.

“They call it ‘white chips,” said Moser of what was produced. “It was a good quality to help the pellet plant with mixing for a good quality pellet.”

READ MORE: Is this the world’s cleanest pellet plant?

Moser said a suggestion by Ian Black from Jock’s Excavating, the company that did the thinning and chipping work, to use waste as the base for the haul road from the site proved particularly beneficial.

“The roadbed held up very well, not at all muddy like roads at other locations,” he said, adding the waste base avoided disturbing the underlying soil.

The task of thinning out the overdense site was accomplished using a small and highly-maneuverable feller-buncher machine.

It cut a series of loop-like trails at the location so trees could be hauled to the waiting chipper in addition to its thinning work.

Aside from thinning, providing sawlogs and chips for pellets, Lukuku and Moser are also hoping to meet a fourth objective — creating habitat to attract wildlife such as goshawks and bats.

Moser said removing the dense forest cover now means there’s more room for wildlife.

Still, Lukuku said an initial hope for habitat enhancement work was shelved because of budget limitations.

Lukuku is now writing his final report for submission to the forest enhancement society and he and Moser are cautious about what might come next.

“If after we cost everything out, we will be able to tell if such a project can be applied on a large scale,” said Lukuku.

“This evaluation will among other things look at using more suitable and efficient spacing equipment. The terrain would be a consideration. Steep hills would hinder machine operability.”

As it is, the thinned out 30 hectares will reach maturity in another 40 to 50 years, he estimates.

Moser said hauling distance costs for both sawlogs and chips for processing are a key determination. Just how many overdense hectares could be thinned for both immediate and future benefit is difficult to estimate without a detailed analysis of the Terrace and Kitimat area, Moser added.

“TFL 41 [where Skeena Sawmills operates] currently has approximately 4,500 hectares of forest in the timber harvesting landbase between age 30 and age 50, where the problem tends to be focused,” he said.

Visit our Facebook page

Follow us on Twitter

Typos? Email the editor!

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A BC Hydro outage is affecting nearly 4000 customers in Kitimat. The cause of the outage is under investigation. (Screenshot/BC Hydro Outage Map)
Cable fault responsible for Kitimat power outage, BC Hydro says

At its peak, the BC Hydro power outage affected near 4,000 customers

Graph showing the 2020 passenger totals at the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace. (Submitted/Northwest Regional Airport)
New year brings an end to a turbulent 2020 at Northwest Regional Airport

Passenger totals half of what they were in 2019

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

The leisure pool at the Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre will be open Thursday and closed Friday for maintenance, the DoK said in an updated Facebook post Thursday (Jan. 14). (Kitimat Leisure Services photo)
UPDATE: Leisure pool at Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre open Thursday, closed Friday

The leisure pool will be closed Friday (Jan. 15) for maintenance due to a mechanical issue

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Most Read