There is tremendous value to British Columbians in reducing forest slash burning. Benefits include improved community protection, lessened environmental impacts, and increased employment.
Since 2017, FPInnovations and the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia (FESBC) have partnered to find solutions that maximize the use of forest fibre, all while enhancing forest resiliency throughout B.C. This is a key priority for the provincial government considering the mid-term fibre supply deficits, the latest consequential mill closures, and the recent catastrophic wildfires.
The power of efficiency
“With the financial support of FESBC, FPInnovations has unravelled the economics of forest operations tailored to increase the use of existing fibre sources,” stated Ken Byrne, manager of resource management for FPInnovations. “The findings will provide the B.C. forest sector with the necessary information to become innovative, cut costs, and maximize operations.”
Much of FPInnovations’ research has revolved around the incremental costs of harvesting and transporting biomass logs. These costs are over and above what it would normally cost to transport logs for market. The research has also looked at alternative processing systems to identify opportunities to reduce costs and increase fibre utilization.
“Initial research identified opportunities to increase volume recovery using centrally located yards instead of processing solely at roadside.” said Byrne. “These studies also showed that if biomass logs are transported to market instead of piling and burning them at roadside, there is potential for higher profits.”
Reducing the wildfire risk through thinning
FPInnovations also assessed thinning operations which reduce the density of trees on the land base.
A great example of this is the wildfire risk reduction project by the City of Quesnel. The city needed to protect the community by reducing wildfire risk close to the Quesnel airport. By thinning the trees and removing ladder fuels and lower branches, the risk of an out-of-control crown fire—where a fire goes from one treetop to another—dramatically decreased. The City also wished to enhance wildlife habitat and create a recreational trail system in the same area and generate green energy from the woody biomass that otherwise would have been slash-burned in the process.
The research on these operations helped identify the true efficiency of forest fuel reduction treatments and reveal associated costs. Not only do these treatments reduce wildfire risk, but they also achieve other forest management objectives—specifically when it comes to areas that are adjacent to communities and critical infrastructure.
Value of the partnership
“FESBC is grateful that FPInnovations is able to provide research expertise in forest operations. We are in a time of transition. It is critical to know the true costs and levels of productivity of different machines, methods, and treatment plans” explained Steve Kozuki, executive director of FESBC. “Getting the most value from the forest at an affordable cost will help British Columbia create more sustainable jobs, protect communities, and achieve our goals when it comes to climate change.”
“The partnership between FESBC and FPInnovations has had a positive impact on increasing fibre utilization and forest resilience when the forest industry needs it the most,” said Byrne. “Future projects will continue to focus on maximizing value from lower-quality stands of trees and responding to the continuous impacts of climate change.”