A local company is seeing success after trying out an alternative to clear-cut logging.
Kalum Ventures Ltd, the forestry division of the Kitsumkalum Band’s economic arm, has been using selective logging practices for four cumulative months.
Now, the company is seeing logs cut with this method off on ships to China despite a market that has softened for northwestern logs.
The practice involves falling trees in select areas of a cutting permit, instead of clear cutting a large section.
“Instead of cutting all the trees, we’re taking patches,” said Lyle Bolton, general manager with Kalum Ventures. “We call them pods.”
Kalum Ventures currently has two active permits on which it is select logging, 80 hectares in the Alice Creek area and 34 hectares near the old Kitsumkalum Ski Hill area.
In each permit, select logging practices seek to harvest 30 to 40 per cent of the volume within a particular permit zone.
Volume is harvested by falling pods of trees within a permit zone that are no larger that three quarters of a hectare each, explained Bolton.
Those pods, either square or rectangular in shape, measure between 50 to 100 metres along their sides.
The next trick for select logging is to choose patches of trees containing the highest quality — or most saleable quality — of wood within their profile, which is the makeup of types of trees and quality of wood in a specific area.
Pods are also chosen for the ease at which trees will fall, and safety to the fallers, said Troy Sam, field tech with Kalum Ventures.
Fallers will “walk the block” to select areas, marking future pods with tape so that they can be easily found when its time to log.
“We’ve been able to pull out the best wood,” said Bolton, pointing to a stack of logs pulled onto a service road from a pod located six kilometres north from the Kitsumkalum Band office.
Bolton added that select logging allows Kalum Ventures to take only what is needed, allowing trees to keep growing until a marker for them comes available.
However, on each permit, the clock starts ticking once the first stick of wood is cut.
Permit times last four to five years, he explained.
Kalum Ventures began select logging practices in October 2011, cutting until the first snowfall and resuming in June this year.
The company bought a truck, cat and winch for the venture, which has created three full-time positions.
“We haven’t lost money,” said Bolton. “We’ve been selling our wood to a broker that’s been selling to China.”
And Rick Brouwer of the Skeena Nass Centre for Innovation Economics (SNCIRE) says since the Chinese market for northwestern logs has softened, that’s pretty good.
“Basically, there’s a very limited marketplace right now,” said Brouwer. “There’s some (logs) moving, but not as much as last year or years ago.
“Pretty much everybody is quiet right now,” Brouwer said of northwestern logging operations..
But what has been working for Kalum Ventures, with which SNCIRE has been working as a consultant, is the low-cost and low-volume model behind select logging practices, said Brouwer.
“Selection logging is slow and doesn’t produce a lot of volume ,” he said, adding that orders from Kalum Ventures can go to top up existing orders being made from elsewhere, and that smaller shipments are viable because of lower operating costs.
“It’s all within Kitsumkalum’s traditional territory,” said Lyle Bolton, X with Kalum Ventures of the areas being selectively logged.