Cheslatta Carrier Nation Reduces Forest Fire Hazard And Protects Dormant Ootsa Lake Sawmill

Cheslatta Carrier Nation

2012- The Ootsa Lake Sawmill (formerly operated by Cheslatta Forest Products) is a dormant lodgepole pine and spruce sawmill that produces up to eighty million board feet per year when operating, and is located between Ootsa Lake and Francois Lake, south of Burns Lake within BC's central interior. This sawmill is a three-way joint venture partnership between the local community, the Cheslatta First Nation, and Carrier Lumber Ltd.

In order to restore the health of local forests that had been adversely impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic, in 2009 the Cheslatta Carrier Nation undertook a forest fuel management project that has selectively harvested dead standing pine surrounding the Ootsa Lake Sawmill and has left all harvested fibre within the tree stands to regenerate a future healthy forest ecosystem.

This fuel management project included ten blocks of Crown land surrounding the Ootsa Lake Sawmill, with a treated area covering 82.2 hectares. In addition to the labour intensive work within the forests under this project, a Fuel Management Operational Plan was developed that guided the project and will continue to be used by Cheslatta for future forest regeneration projects. The work was completed largely by hand crews, with limited support of heavy equipment that was only used when required for worker safety. The work crew was entirely comprised of local individuals from Cheslatta and other local First Nations.

The fuel management project targeted dead pine trees and dense understory timber that increases the risk of an unmanagable forest fire considerably. The removal of this dead forest content will greatly protect the Ootsa Lake Sawmill which is a principal industrial asset for the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and its neighbouring First Nations.

Positive Economic Impacts in Ootsa Lake

Under this project, sixteen local residents were employed for eighteen months and many of the employees that received training as a part of their employment with this project have since aquired other related work as a direct result of the experience they directly gained.

All the supplies used to implement the project were purchased locally with Burns Lake being the major centre where products such as fuel, chainsaws, safey equipment, and food were purchased. Six local contractors and consultants were hired to assist with technical and safety elements throughout the duration of this project.

Most importantly, this project has achieved its primary purpose of protecting the Ootsa Lake Sawmill from potential forest fire hazards. This will ensure this important industrial asset will that can be gained through the operation of that facility.