QUESNEL, B.C. – After years of wildfires and pine beetles devastating its lumber industry, the city of Quesnel has unveiled a new forestry innovation centre to rethink how wood resources are managed and how to better create jobs and profitable products with them.
“The centre is part of a broader initiative started in May 2018, to try and facilitate a pretty significant discussion about the future of forestry,” said Mayor Bob Simpson in an interview with the Journal.
Simpson explained that fire and pine beetle damage has caused several major sawmills to shut their doors or reduce shifts, resulting in hundreds of lost jobs.
“We decided to do some diversification work, but we also decided to play a critical facilitator role to rethink our base sector,” said Simpson. “The centre will be the house and hub for the research, dialogue and education around wood, local wood products and local industry.”
The $160,000 centre is on the second floor of City Hall. While it includes offices and research space it also showcases different wood products from the local area with its furniture and walls.
The centre will encourage experimenting with wood-fibre residues and other by-products of forest product manufacturing. Some of these products include prefabricated construction materials, wood composites, biofuels, bio-oils, pellets, and biodegradable single use products.
Simpson noted that these products could soon been in high demand. The province requires that engineered wood be used wherever possible for public infrastructure projects, including the new Royal BC Museum in Victoria and the new St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. And there could soon be a shift away from single use plastic items like straws and bags.
Simpson believes this approach will help maximize the value of the products the forestry industry produces rather than the volume as usable trees have become scarcer.
“The traditional saw log is diminishing, and we don’t want to repeat what was seen with the cod fishery on the east coast,” he said. “We need to change our forestry management regime to create more resilient and adaptable ecosystems.”
The centre is part of the city’s Forestry Initiatives Program which emerged from its Future of Forestry Think Tank process. The think tank process brought together 65 technical experts in May of 2018 with a wide range of knowledge and expertise to discuss land management and innovation in the manufacturing of wood.
Doug Donaldson, the provincial Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, attended that centre’s open, and praised it as an example of how the interior can change its forestry industry.
“Now we are working with a number of the agencies on building the business cases on what we think are some near term options to attract investment into the community and create jobs,” said Simpson.