Canadian Biomass Magazine

Pilot project aims to rehabilitate wildfire-affected forests

January 12, 2024
By Canadian Biomass staff

70 Mile, B.C.  In light of the ongoing challenges facing the forest industry, including mill closures, timber supply shortages and unprecedented wildfire seasons, Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. (CCR), has recognized the necessity of creating new opportunities within the sector. New initiatives, such as a pilot project to rehabilitate the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire-affected area at Pressy Lake, with support from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) funding, are an attempt to bring balance to the sector.

Daniel Persson, Registered Professional Forester and CCR’s Forestry Superintendent explained that CCR had been contemplating new initiatives for quite some time since identifying the need for wood fibre utilization and rehabilitation work on the vast areas of land devastated after wildfires. “It will take generations for the forest to regenerate in some of these areas, if at all unless someone steps in and helps, and that was part of our team’s discussion. We became very motivated to start the pilot project initiative when Premier David Eby challenged innovative forestry companies to undertake the challenge of finding ways to utilize older burnt fibre at the Council of Forest Industries conference last year.”

Extracting 7-year-old burned fiber poses significant challenges owing to the brittleness of standing dead trees and complexities in management. Nonetheless, CCR remains confident that it can be achieved, enabling the utilization of fibre for job creation and cost-effective production of biomass products.

“The areas that are being targeted have remained in a poor state since the fires of 2017 and are economically unviable for traditional harvesting due to significant degradation and very limited conventional value,” noted Persson.

The purpose of this pilot project is to help reduce wildfire risk and rehabilitate fire-damaged forests while producing a premium wood chip that will help offset the cost of the operations.

A common practice in British Columbia for areas such as Pressy Lake is to underplant to establish new trees beneath or among the existing burnt stand structure. As there is an overwhelming amount of debris left that can burn on this site, CCR believes that future wildfire risk in the same area needs to be mitigated before anything else; otherwise, the risk for the area to burn again is too great, and all rehabilitation efforts would be lost, bringing the efforts back to square one.

The first stage of the pilot project aims to achieve two things:

  • Preparing the area for planting by reducing the wildfire- and safety risk of the area through the removal of dead wood to the closest roads for further processing.
  • Generating high-value pulp and biomass products through refined processing of the fibre at the roadside.

In the next stage, the CCR team will be hauling the biomass products to their end users with help from FESBC funding. According to Persson, the team estimates it will see up to 1,000 truckloads of biomass created from this project if it is successful.

This is just the starting point of this project. The long-term objective is to have a fully regenerated forest left for future generations. This includes several phases and will take at least 3 years to complete, and that is when we mark this project as complete.

“Every phase depends on the one before it, and our overall timeline from start to finish is flexible with our target to complete it over 3 years,” noted Persson. “We look forward to what we will learn and how we can share this knowledge with others in the industry.”

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