Sawmill Aids Community Forest Management In British Columbia

Small Business Features Key Equipment from Wood-Mizer, Including Sawmill

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HARROP, British Columbia —

In 1999, thousands of hours of dedicated volunteer work and more than 20 years of community input came to fruition with the incorporation of the Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative. The co-operative formed in order to manage public forest land surrounding two neighboring small communities — Harrop and Procter — that are located along Kootenay Lake in southeastern British Columbia, Canada.

In the years since, the work of the co-op, through its management of the Harrop-Procter Community Forest, has come to be internationally recognized as one of the most successful community forestry operations in North America. Community forests and similar entities are managed with a broad range of social, environmental, and economic goals in mind.

A Wood-Mizer-equipped sawmill plays a key role in allowing the co-op to achieve its goals of managing the forest based on ecologically sound practices in order to protect the region’s watershed while also stimulating local employment.

The sawmill business, Harrop-Procter Forest Products, is a subsidiary of the co-op. Forest management and the sawmill provide jobs that are important for the two communities, which have a population of only about 600 people.

Each year about 2.8 million board feet of logs are harvested from the community forest, which is 28,000 acres.The timber harvesting is carried out utilizing carefully planned strategies to minimize disturbance to the land and to ensure that the watershed remains fully functional. As a measure of sustainability, this would be equal to one small tree harvested per year per acre on average.

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About one quarter of the logs are sawn and processed at Harrop-Procter Forest Products into a broad variety of wood products, including both rough sawn and smooth surfaced lumber, trim, fencing, deck boards, timbers for timber framers, siding, flooring, and paneling.  The remaining balance of the logs are sold to other sawmills in the region.

The Harrop-Procter Forest Products sawmill is a model of compact efficiency. It is set up to allow for economy of motion and production, so there is a lot going on in a small space.

Primary log breakdown is performed by a Wood-Mizer LT70 portable sawmill, which features complete hydraulic log handling and easy-to-use powered saw head controls.

Coming off the sawmill, rough cut lumber is stacked according to size or routed to a Wood-Mizer EG200 twin-blade board edger for further breakdown. Lumber that will undergo secondary processing is kiln-dried in a Wood-Mizer KD250 dehumidification kiln. Secondary processing is done with a variety of other machines. The mill’s saw blades are kept in top condition with a completely outfitted sharpening center featuring a Wood-Mizer BMS500 industrial blade sharpener.

The sawmill and the edger were purchased with the help of a grant from the Columbia Basin Trust, and Harrop-Procter Forest Products operates debt-free, a credit to its management and the co-op.

While economically viable, the real importance of the sawmill to the people of Harrop-Procter comes from its role in helping the co-op to achieve non-economic goals. A full scale clear cut harvest considered by the Province would have concentrated effects on the region’s watershed into a small time frame with significant and lasting negative consequences. With its own sawmill, the co-op can plan timber harvests based on ecological principles that will  reduce the effects to the watershed over time, maintaining and protecting water quality and forest sustainability. This model still allows the forest to be utilized to create local jobs that would not exist without the mill in place. A proposed full scale clear cut harvest would have involved outside harvesting contractors, and jobs would have been produced in mills outside of the communities.

Harrop-Procter Forest Products cuts about 1 million board feet per year, according to Rami Rothkop, manager. The mill employs five full-time workers as well as several part-time.

“In the summer we usually hire a few students as well and we hire local loggers and road builders for another 2 full-time equivalents,” said David Strom, the mill’s sawyer and technical manager.

Beside providing jobs, Harrop-Procter Forest Products donates about $10,000 worth of lumber products annually for various community projects, such as a public fishing wharf, a park, and community gardens.

According to Rothkop and Strom, other benefits of the operation include diverting timber resources from the waste stream. The mill is able to manufacture high-end products from some wood that a traditional sawmill would consider undesirable or may underutilize. Milling the logs and selling the lumber locally rather than shipping logs out and then shipping in finished lumber products also dramatically reduces the carbon footprint.

Wood-Mizer certainly gets some of the credit: its thin kerf blade technology provides for an increase in the amount of lumber recovered from logs. In fact, in the 35-plus years since Wood-Mizer first created a viable marketplace for thin-kerf sawmills, the U.S. Forest Service and other research has shown the thin-kerf approach to be one of the world’s major contributors to reduced carbon footprints for construction.

The Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative is demonstrating that environmental, social, and economic benefits to a community can be accomplished through the operation of a sawmill.