Local bucker Otis Mecham at work at the dry land sort.

Nuxalk, Bella Coola Community Forests collaborate to increase economic opportunities

Nuxalk, Bella Coola Community Forests collaborate to increase economic opportunities

Common interests have prevailed with the collaboration of the Nuxalk Forestry Ltd. Partnership and the Bella Coola Community Forest at the Clayton Falls dry land sort.

The two companies have been operating independently of one another for over five years, but have recently come together to increase productivity and business opportunities in the Valley.

“We are two small companies facing the same challenges,” said Bella Coola Community Forest Manager Hans Granander. “But we also have the same goals: to create more local economic opportunities and employment from our forestry operations.”

The Bella Coola Community Forest (BCCF) has been operational since 2007, when it was first issued a five-year probationary license to harvest up to 30,000 cubic metres per year from six different areas around the Valley. Now operating under a 25-year renewable license, most of their operation has been based in the Nusatsum and Saloompt areas, and the company employs about twenty local people in different positions throughout the year.

The Nuxalk Forestry Ltd. Partnership (NFLP) is but one of many divisions of the Nuxalk Development Corporation, an independent for-profit company with interests in forestry, sawmilling, commercial fishing, and eco-tourism. The company has a 25-year renewable Community Forest License centred in South Bentinck Arm and has been logging there since 2009, with an allowable cut of 20,000 cubic metres per year.

“Most of our activity has been conventional ground-based logging in South Bentinck’s Camp Two area, but we also did some heli-logging in the Ickna River in 2012,” said Randy Hart, CEO of the Nuxalk Development Corporation. “In the 2012/2013 fiscal year NFLP generated just over $3.4 million in gross revenue and employed 48 Nuxalk people during that time. This is a huge boost to the Central Coast and Valley economies.”

Both Granander and Hart stated that the BCCF and NFLP are committed to growing the local economy by purchasing supplies and services from within the Valley whenever feasible.

Hart admits that there are some members within the Nuxalk community that oppose the logging, but he remains confident that the employment and economic activity generated is beneficial, not only to the Nuxalkmc, but also to the wider community.

“We have been employing about a quarter of our workers year-round while the remainder are seasonally employed,” said Hart. “The operation is selective patch cutting and it’s very sustainable. Our intention is to harvest timber in a manner that respects the culture and traditions of the Nuxalkmc as well as protect the important values and features of the Great Bear Rainforest.”

The two companies have come together at the dry land sort where they jointly process logs from both operations. While both companies use Vancouver-based company A&A Trading Ltd. to market their logs, there is desire on both sides to see the wood processed locally first.

“The dry land sort is where the logs are scaled and processed,” said Granander. “Previously, this work was done in Howe Sound, and we were missing out on this opportunity.”

A&A Trading owns the dry land sort, but the BCCF manages the day-to-day operations, contracts the required equipment such as the tug and boom boat and loaders, and deals with any issues that may arise. NFLP is now supplying the workers, including the log-buckers, log-scalers and log-bundlers as well as equipment and supplies.

This has taken the processing capabilities of the sort to a whole new level and both forestry companies are now hopeful that their new working relationship will enable them to attract even more business from the Central Coast and even the Chilcotin plateau.

“There are numerous advantages to this new relationship,” explained Hart. “For one, we need to be competitive within the industry, and this increased capability at the dry land sort is essential. Another is the community advantage. The trim ends from the processed logs are now available to the community for building, carving wood or as firewood. Obviously this can’t occur when the wood is processed out of town.”

Granander is confident that the collaboration is just the beginning of increased productivity for both companies. “Overall we are very pleased with how it’s coming together,” he said. “It’s a really good example of two entities working together with a common goal and enjoying a successful outcome.”