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Mercer Celgar and Osoyoos Indian Band partner to recover and utilize low-value fibre with FESBC funding

February 7, 2024  By P&PC Staff

Mercer Celgar and the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) are collaborating to decrease the burning of slash piles and increase the utilization of the traditionally underused wood fibre, with funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC). Aligned with the provincial government’s goals, the project aims to recover uneconomical residual fibre from the OIB’s traditional territory, thereby addressing environmental and economic challenges within the forestry sector.

Mercer Celgar shares that this project focuses on recovering and utilizing low-value fibre, often overlooked for sawmills and deemed not viable for non-sawlog products. By converting this fibre into wood chips and hog fuel for electricity generation, the initiative reduces waste and produces cleaner energy. Specifically, some recovered fibre is processed into chips in Midway and then transported to the Mercer pulp mill in Castlegar.

“This program not only provides opportunities for the logging community that is supplying the logs to the Celgar pulp mill, logs that would be burned, but the program is meaningfully reducing carbon emissions associated with the changed behaviour. By creating a wood product, approximately 64,000 tonnes of carbon entering the atmosphere will be avoided. This is the same emissions that 13,800 mid-sized vehicles would produce in 1 year,” said FESBC operations manager Brian Watson.


Currently, the project is 65 percent complete. Even upon completion, Celgar will reportedly continue to maximize the recovery and utilization of uneconomical fibre while reducing carbon emissions via collaboration with land tenure holders and their logging workforce in the southern interior.

According to Chris Longmore, manager of fibre procurement with Celgar, FESBC funding has gone towards utilization and rehabilitation from at least seven wildfire-impacted areas spread across the Arrow, Boundary, Okanagan, Kootenay, Revelstoke, and Golden timber supply areas, including the Octopus Creek wildfire which burned more than 22,000 hectares of forest and the Michaud Creek fire, which burned over 14,000 hectares of forest. To date, over 26,000 cubic metres of burnt logging residue has been recovered, loaded on a logging truck, and shipped to the Mercer Celgar facility in Castlegar rather than into a waste pile. That volume will continue to grow in 2024 as efforts continue to focus on utilizing fibre from burnt stands fibre.

“The financial support from FESBC has played a crucial role in bringing together project partners, particularly First Nations, to embark on this transformative journey. This funding highlights the importance of collective efforts in redefining forest management practices and sets the stage for a more sustainable future,” said Longmore.

Revelstoke has seen a direct benefit, with $230,000 coming into the community as payment for the use of the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation log yard for this project. Many other communities in the southern interior are also indirectly receiving an infusion into their economy from this project through the logging community and the businesses that service them.

Dan Macmaster, forest manager at the OIB, highlighted the significance of sustainable resource use for the OIB, stating, “Fibre utilization through proper forest management results in less burning of debris piles, cleaner air and waterways, and financial benefits from processing pulp volume that would normally be left behind. FESBC has provided the funding to help local contractors haul this volume over long distances to the Celgar mill, creating jobs, incentivizing fuel mitigation projects, and adding value to pulp fibre that would otherwise be burned.”

As the project aims to haul approximately 128,000 m3 by March 31, 2024, efforts will continue well into the future to maximize the recovery and utilization of uneconomical fibre.

“Managing the larger landscape for wildfire risk reduction, climate change adaptations, and mitigating insect infestations is critical to the OIB,” shared Macmaster. “This FESBC project has provided the means to meet numerous management objectives on our traditional lands.”

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