Wayne Noble works the yellow skidder, pushing the logs off the truck into the water. This log dump site by the Hulks beach has been recently acquired by Tla’amin Nation’s Thichum Forest Products.
Abby Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By Abby Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

One of Tla’amin Nation’s biggest economic income sources is from its forestry company, Thichum Forest Products.

The industry is renewable-resource based, meaning all trees are used, and forests are managed and planned for the future.

Recently Thichum (meaning ‘deep into the woods’) has created a new program to benefit both Tla’amin and the environment.

“We are starting a new firewood program for the Nation,” explains Adam Culos, Thichum’s general forestry manager. We take the cut trees which are rotten or are not in a condition to be sold, and bring them to the firewood lot where they will be turned into firewood which will be incorporated back into the Nation and the local community.

Wayne Noble (Right) trains new employee Kyle McGee (Left) how to operate the skidder at the log dump site.

“Normally, those trees would just be burnt or left on the site, but we have found a way to repurpose them,” says Adam. “We will work closely with Drew Blaney and the cultural team to ensure we utilize our forests to provide the community with resources for cultural purposes – including red cedar bark”

Tla’amin uses cedar bark for making hats, baskets, cedar roses, and more, the bark would traditionally be stripped from trees, without damage, but now they can reuse the bark from the trees that will be sold.

“We really are more concentrated on our values than strictly the bottom line we generate. Thichum is a huge source of funding for the Nation, but we realize the importance of social, cultural and environmental responsibilities. An example of this is our firewood program.

Arch Kenmuir operates the boom boat, which pushes logs into a boom for the tugboat to take away.

“The firewood business will help employ Nation members, minimize waste in the forests and support a social need for Nation members.”

The Nation is also working on an Integrated Resource Management Plan (IRMP) in 2022 with Tla’amin members on how to manage forestry and maximize the resources they have.

“I think it is really important to have the community involved, so that they know what we are doing, that they are not just seeing logging truck loads, but seeing the amount of replanting that is done, and where those logs go and what they turn into,” says Adam.

The Nation has placed restrictions on logging old growth trees, no more than 250 are to be cut until the IRMP is finished, which is scheduled to be complete in 18 months.

“Thichum will not be harvesting any old growth until the IRMP is done,” Adam says.

Thichum was established in 2007 and has been bringing in funds for healthy living dividends ($500 per Nation member) or money to build new economic development ever since. Forestry is under the branch of Tla’amin Management Services LP and is the only industry to annually put its earnings into the Nation.

The logs and fiber are sold to various different mills in Canada, as well as being sold to locals. “Thichum Forest Products focuses on a ‘quadruple bottom line’, this means we believe that social, cultural, environmental and economics all share the same value,” says Adam.

“We are really set on building our staff capacity and the overall value delivered to our community members.”

Thichum Forest Products has taken over the ownership and management of their log dump. Previously, this site was managed by another company, Tla’amin Lake Contracting, which was a partnership between that Nation and Goat Lake Forest Products, created in 2007. Both companies still work together, with Thichum now managing the site operations.

“This is an example of how Thichum is building internal capacity while providing meaningful, long-term employment,” Adam says.

Logging at the Haslam Block 2 site, these logs are in the process of being sorted into piles.

Reforestation, road building, harvesting, and brush cutting are all other jobs Thichum Forest Products manages. Right now, Thichum is working with two different harvest blocks, which are both 40,000 cubic meters.

Yearly, 80,000 cubic meters are logged through Tla’amin’s Community Forest Agreement, an additional 25,000 cubic meters are logged through Treaty Settlement Lands. 

“The Community Forest Agreement is outside of the Treaty Settlement Lands so it was not affected by the Final Agreement Treaty,” says Adam.

“Our harvested areas are surveyed 12-18 months prior to actual harvesting. This gives us the opportunity to assess and balance the many values that are associated with our forests” says Adam. “Our biggest priority is the future. Our forests are healthy, and we believe in building better forests 210 years or seven generations from now.

“We manage the forests of tomorrow, not today. And I really believe that Thichum Forest Products can change the view of what the forestry industry can do.”

On February 15, Thichum Forest Products and Western Forest Products announced they have negotiated a timber harvesting services contract in Tree Farm License 39 block one, which is managed by Western.

The three year contract will provide an additional 100,000 cubic meters of land that Thichum will help harvest. 

The contract builds on the renewable agreement Tla’amin and Western both signed last summer and will increase the harvesting capacity for both companies.

“This agreement is one of many initiatives Western and Tla’amin are working on to start 2022,” said Hegus John Hackett.

This item is reprinted with permission from qathet Living, Tla’amin Nation, British Columbia.

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