Ecotrust Canada is turning its attention to ways local communities can extract more value from the area’s timber.

Story by Jennifer Dart published in the Westerly News on Thursday, October 09, 2008. Click here for original story.

In a briefing document released last week, the non-profit organization summarizes a study they commissioned on the potential of value-added opportunities in Clayoquot Sound, with emphasis on First Nations communities and the First Nations-owned forestry company Iisaak Forest Products.

The briefing paper details several value-added examples in the region, including the new elementary and high school in Hot Springs Cove, built by the Hesquiaht First Nation with wood from their traditional territory milled on site, as well as the Raincoast Field Study Centre, built from salvaged wood by Peter Buckland and the Boat Basin Foundation at Hesquiaht Harbour.

The log salvaging operation run by Ben Ronennbergh and Nick Bodding and the canoe carving talents of local Tla-o-qui-aht carver Joe Martin count among the roughly two dozen individuals involved in the value-added industry in Clayoquot Sound.

But this number doesn’t come close to the potential, says Ecotrust.

"As impressive as the individual efforts are, it’s a paltry number given the volume and quality of timber being harvested in the region," states the report.

Ecotrust’s end goal is to get more value from less timber thereby creating a sustainable forestry industry and by extension sustainable communities.

The strategy for "scaling up local value-added manufacturing" focuses in part on the timber harvest by the Forest Stewardship Council certified Iisaak and what can be done with this wood, the majority of which (46%) is old growth cedar. Iisaak’s annual allowable cut is 110,000 cubic metres this year.

Ecotrust was involved in a managing contract with Iisaak, along with Triumph Timber, starting in Nov. 2006. Their involvement directed most of Iisaak’s timber to Forest Stewardship Council certified mills on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, but did not address increasing value-added processing in the region.

The study identifies several opportunities that vary in investment, need for training, difficulty and risk.

Among the low risk ventures – which the study’s authors recommend Iisaak and the Central Region First Nations go after first – include a house log sort and a custom cutting operation.

Slightly more risky projects could be a portable subsistence sawmill, millwork and cabinetry operations, and First Nations arts and crafts.

The moderate to high risk proposals include a portable commercial sawmill, building furniture and outdoor structures, hand-crafted log home building and architectural log profiling.

The report also notes several of these enterprises would benefit from being developed together, for example several similar businesses could share machinery, space, and even administrative staff.

The value-added discussion seems more pertinent now than ever before, as things are heating up on the logging front.

Earlier this year another First Nations owned forestry company, Mamook Natural Resources, came under fire from environmentalists for saying they would run out of timber in developed areas of Clayoquot by 2009 and would start going into untouched areas such as Hesquiaht Point Creek, where they began road building this summer.

The company, who partners with Coulson Forest Products in Clayoquot, agreed to meet with environmental groups before proceeding.

Ecotrust president Ian Gill, in a recent statement, pointed to the untapped value of leaving Clayoquot’s watersheds untouched, in terms of storing carbon and other values. The company is investigating the potential economic spin-off of these possibilities, he said.

The study’s authors note the impetus for value-added iniatives will have to come from entrepreneurs in West Coast First Nations communities.

"Without these leaders, without their drive, creativity and commitment, the businesses will simply not develop, or will be managed by others with marginal First Nations involvement."

–jdart@westerlynews.ca