It’s been a discussion that has been going on for years now: what can be done to revitalize forestry-related industry and get the next generation profiting from the surrounding wealth of wood? At the Local Forest Economy workshop held in Nakusp Nov. 22, a series of presentations were given from different sectors tackling just this question.
Hugh Watt and Brent Petrick gave a presentation about local and regional wood supply, highlighting under-utilized species and grades and future species trends. One of the hot topics was hemlock, a lower value wood source due to difficulty manufacturing with it. High supply, limited and other issues contribute to its low value, Watt said.
Local timber frame builder Dave Madden told the Arrow Lakes News that there was more waste with hemlock as it’s subject to rot and unpredictable due to defects that can’t be seen on an initial inspection. When drying, it can twist and warp badly which makes it unsuitable for some building projects, although it could be used for flooring, timbers, outbuildings or agricultural buildings such as barns.
“Hemlock has potential but it’s got less recovery than other species,” said Madden. “You could get a lot less out of a logging truckload of wood than you think.” The timber framer compared it to other hardwoods like birch where recovery is about 50 per cent.
So what to do with the other half? Manufacturing pallets or other products where quality isn’t an issue are an option, or fencing or corrals. Although Madden sees a possibility for the tree in the agricultural wood market, it’s a market with which Nakusp doesn’t have a connection.
That being said, Madden has built timber frame buildings with hemlock, and said would use it again. Judiciously.
“You just have to be pickier about what you do with it,” he explained. For example, the wood is used for siding and paneling, he said.
For the most part, people can choose not to use hemlock, thanks to the wide variety of species available in the area, and so finding a use for the wood has been a lower priority for the most part. It is the area’s diversity of tree species that may also mean that Nakusp will be in a good position to supply wood once the glut of beetle-infested wood has been cleared.
As Madden mentioned, the reality of Nakusp’s remote location and difficulty with transportation to markets and finding skilled workers were definitely hot topics for participants at the workshop. An introduction to international market possibilities was given by Scott Olsen from Olympic Industries, and Selkirk College’s training opportunities in the forestry sector were outlined by Greg Neelin.
Developing industry closer to home is a big interest for people living in the area, and Marvin Funk from FP Innovations gave a list of subjects to keep in mind when starting up a new forestry venture. Bringing in innovative industry such as a biomass heating project to Nakusp was also explored, with David Dubois from Wood Waste2RuralHeat demonstrating options for the town, as well as what has already been accomplished in other places.
The issue of exactly where to develop industry has been in discussion for a while, and Village of Nakusp CAO Linda Tynan was on hand with maps of municipal zoning areas as well.
“There seems to be a lot of people wanting to resolve these issues,” said Hugh Watt, who noted that there are some land availability and opportunities outside of the village, but not much zoned for industrial within the village.
For Watt, the takeaway from the workshop was that there is a very genuine interest in doing some manufacturing, even small scale, in Nakusp that would help diversify the local economy.
“A few good ideas coupled with some capital and ‘drive’ would result in jobs here to fix up the demographic and create some ‘critical mass’ for our town,” said Watt. “We need the means for young people to come here or stay here and work.”