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BC Forest minister sells local economic diversification

Photo by Kyra Hoggan: BC minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell, along with mayor Lawrence Chernoff and other industry stakeholders, pose in front of Castlegar trees while promoting new forestry initiatives.

In a public announcement made at the Castlegar Forum last Thursday, provincial forestry minister Pat Bell said he thinks innovative technologies like bio-energy just may be the silver bullet for the region's beseiged forestry sector.

He said the province won't be stepping in to address the Celgar taxation issue, "that's clearly a local government issue," and added any true hope of seeing Interfor's local mill re-opened lies with the workers and the city, in creating an environment conducive to competing in tight world markets.

He did say, however, that innovation may open doors to more jobs, money and diversification for the region.

"I think there's a huge opportunity for a (wood) pellet factory in this area," he said, explaining pellets used to produce energy are made from low-grade fibre that's essentially going to waste right now.

"There could be a wide variety of opportunities ...who knows what an entrepreneur will come along and invent?"

To that end, he announced a public call for proposals "regarding innovative uses of wood fibre".

"We're really looking forward to seeing what comes forward - it could very easily mean new capital investment and jobs for Castlegar."

The call-for-resolutions press release is as follows:

The Arrow Boundary Forest District is soliciting the public
for proposals regarding innovative uses of wood fibre, Forests and Range
Minister Pat Bell announced today.

"Improving utilization means getting more value from our forests," said
Bell. "British Columbia continues to lead the country in bioenergy, but
what about the untapped, non-traditional markets? If we can tap into and
pursue new and innovative markets for fibre usage, we can diversify the
local forest economy."

The forest district's goal is to potentially advance new forest economies
by improving the utilization of fibre, which includes any or all parts of
a tree and/or wood waste. The focus is getting the highest-value products
from the whole tree and looking for opportunities to expand the local
forest economy.

Part of the Government of British Columbia's Wood First Initiative is to
facilitate the right fibre to the right process, allowing different
manufacturers access to what they need. The ultimate goal is to maximize
fibre utilization, while balancing the diverse ecological and social
values of the land-base.

Since this is a request for proposals, there is no guarantee that any
submission will result in a tenure being issued but, based on current
fibre availability projections, several licences could be awarded. These
licences would have terms less than 10 years and total volumes greater
than 50,000 cubic metres per year. However, this availability may change
over time.

The Arrow Boundary forest district stretches from Galena Bay in the north
to the U.S. border in the south, and the Monashee Mountains in the west to
the Purcell Mountains in the east. Many ecologically diverse areas from
dry interior grasslands to the interior wet belt forest can be found in
the district.

The total land base of the district covers approximately 2.1 million
hectares and contains a wide variety of species. This provides for many
diverse opportunities for forest fibre utilization.

The Solicitation of Interest/Request for Information is posted at on BC
Bid at http://www.bcbid.gov.bc.ca.