A local logging company was selected to provide cedar wood to build a podium for the upcoming 2010 Olympics in February.

Written by Sarah Douziech, Westerly News

Iisaak Forest Resources Ltd. manager Derek Drake said the locally harvested cedar wood will be milled, dried in a kiln, refined and laminated for podium number ten at the Winter Games in Vancouver in the coming weeks.

“Wood from the local area will be going out to a space where the world will be watching,” Drake said.

The international exposure will provide Iisaak with not only an opportunity to showcase local resources and products, but also a chance to promote their conservation-based approach to forestry.

Not that the company necessarily needs it.

The First Nations-owned logging company has already experienced much growth this year alone.

“In five years, if we maintain our current pace, we will be a totally different, significant local company,” Drake said.

But he cautioned Iisaak isn’t interested in growing too fast, either.

For example, the newly acquired small, manually operated sawmill sitting in the Iisaak yard (the old Millstream yard, just north of the Tofino-Ucluelet junction) could have been bigger and better, Drake said.

“We don’t anticipate this saw will meet our needs, even a year from now,” he said.

But, because it’s part of a greater vision for the yard itself, the company intends to take it a step at a time, starting with an intensive site clean up and repair of three on-site buildings as well as future plans to add First Nations artwork to the main building visible from the highway.

“People will start to see the yard improved visually and made more presentable,” Drake said. “It’s just the first small step toward a more significant local manufacturing presence.”

Already the company can see the need for additional saw components to improve its efficiency, he said, and if they expand beyond the current gas powered saw, Iisaak would also have to seek a different zoning permit.

For now, the mill will offer a good specialty cut of cedar, and possibly fir and hemlock, to local contractors and builders.

“We’ve taken a significant step beyond just logs to being a lumber business,” Drake said, adding that the company is gaining capacity and knowledge about other possibilities.

Additional manufacturing options include making high quality FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified cedar guitar tops; a product Drake said doesn’t currently exist.

This year Iisaak also worked with small local jam company owner Lisa Vezina to bring back the Clayoquot Sound Wildfoods label and sell salal and blackberry jams.

A jam mixture of the salal and blackberries will be made available to local shop owners this year for the holiday season, Drake said, and next year they plan on more.

The jam is yet another example of the company’s eclectic nature as a forest resource company.

“It stems back to the early days of the company,” Drake explained. “The chiefs didn’t want just a logging company.”

“We’ve really taken that to heart.”

People often ask why Iisaak would be involved in making jam or cedar oil, Drake said, but he simply replies that it’s because they’re a different kind of logging company; one that offers forest resource products that are genuine, gathered in an environmentally sound way and involve local labour in processing.