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B.C. accelerates support for Indigenous-led forest innovation

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 2:12 PST, Tue December 6, 2022

The province is supporting the growth of an Indigenous-led forest bioeconomy with new funding for First Nations to develop innovative forest-based products that will reduce the use of petrochemicals and store carbon for the long term.

With $3.9 million in CleanBC funding over three years to expand the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program, the province has launched a new accelerator stream that provides additional funding for First Nation projects at the pilot, commercialization, or scale-up phases. The Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program focuses on using waste that is left over from logging, wildfire debris, and damaged wood to make new, low-carbon forest-based products, while increasing the participation of First Nations in the forestry sector.

"We are taking action to build a sustainable, innovative forestry sector and create new opportunities for workers, communities, and First Nations," said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. "By turning wood waste and dead trees into new, high-value, and long-lived wood products, we can replace products made from non-renewable sources and boost the role of B.C.'s forests in helping to fight climate change."

Since 2019, the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program has delivered 41 projects with 24 Indigenous communities throughout the province. Projects have included textiles made from bark, insulation made from scrap wood, essential oils extracted from conifer needles, and asphalt made from wood-based lignin, instead of bitumen.

Deadwood Innovations, a joint venture with the Nak'azdli Whut'en First Nation, is the first project to receive funding through the new accelerator stream of the program. Deadwood Innovations is working to transform timber that was damaged by mountain pine beetle and wildfire into value-added engineered wood products, such as rail ties, rig mats, and decking.

"Strengthening B.C.'s forestry sector means tackling the challenges of today, while making sure we seize the opportunities of tomorrow," Conroy said. "This will take all of us working together—the provincial government, First Nations, and the forestry industry—to drive forward innovation and greater sustainability, support increased Indigenous participation, and create more jobs for every tree harvested. The work being done by Deadwood Innovations is a perfect example of this vision in action."

The $90,000 in funding to Deadwood Innovations will help it upgrade its pilot-scale manufacturing plant in Fort St. James and enable commercial production. The new facility will create jobs in the region and reduce the need for slash pile burning, reducing carbon emissions.

Quotes:

"Our partnership with Deadwood Innovations is one example of our Nation's increasing participation in forestry on our traditional territories,” said Chief Aileen Prince, Nak'azdli Whut'en First Nation. “Now with the expansion of the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program, which includes a new accelerator funding stream, we are able to scale up to the commercialization stage of this technology quicker. This is creating more economic opportunities in our community and finding new uses for waste, while protecting our forests and wildlife for generations to come."

Owen Miller, president, Deadwood Innovations Ltd., said: “The Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program and its new accelerator stream has positioned our startup to perform commercialization due diligence and engineering with experienced industry professionals. Our technology solves real problems and with support from the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy program, our mission to transform low-quality fibre into high-value products is relentlessly progressing."

Read more about the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program at gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/supporting-innovation/ifbp.

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