Bob O’Neal

Bob O’Neal

Municipal forest rebranding underway

District looking for ways to generate more revenue and jobs from forest

As the five-year cutting cycle for Mission’s forestry department comes to an end, there are plans to rebrand the business and operations under a new name, Mission Forest Enterprise.

“We want to look for opportunities to create more revenue and jobs, and maintain a working forest,” explained Bob O’Neal, acting director of forest management for the district.

Focusing on specialty markets is one way to create a higher value product, explained O’Neal, who can also support local artists looking for a unique piece of wood.

Other ideas include tourism, recreation, and filming opportunities in the community forest.

The district is also working on building an interpretive forest on the west side of Stave Lake.

“That side has a bad reputation now,” said O’Neal. “It scares families away, but we have a unique plan to clean it up and work with volunteers.”

O’Neal says the district knows there is a demand for tourism in the area, and they are always looking for ways to form partnerships.

While the forest industry can be challenging at times, one thing that remains constant is Mission’s dedication to the environment and the community.

“We plan our logging activities so that it doesn’t have a larger impact in one area at a time,” said O’Neal.

Legally, the district can harvest 40 hectares at a time, but it would be an eyesore. That’s why the average is seven hectares and forest engineers, like O’Neal, leave about five per cent of the trees in the area to create structural diversity.

“We don’t have a big company mentality.”

Currently, crews are logging on Bear Mountain and building roads which will eventually become recreational trails for the community

“When we build roads, we build for the long term,” noted O’Neal.

About 20 per cent of this year’s cut — between 7,000 to 8,000 cubic metres — will come from Bear Mountain.

“We spread it out so we’re not doing too much in one area at a time,” said O’Neal. “We’ll head to the west side of Stave Lake next.”

But before the crews leave one area after it’s been logged, they go through it and try to enhance the area for future use by building ponds where possible, and creating piles of brush for small wildlife to enjoy.

The brush piles, or animal condominiums, as O’Neal likes to call them, are more cost effective than burning and “the wildlife value is tremendous,” O’Neal explained.

He also noted extra features, such as ponds, are done in consultation with wildlife biologists and don’t cost the district much more as all the equipment is already in place.

The area will be replanted within a year, and it will be at least three years before logging trucks return to Bear Mountain.

“We take a lot of pride in our forestry practices,” said O’Neal.