Wildfires hindering Tolko, west Fraser’s harvesting plans

Tolko Industries and West Fraser presented draft harvesting plans at an open house June 8 at High Prairie Legion. Left-right, are Tolko northwest regional forestry superintendent Hillary Wait and West Fraser planning forester Aileen Sturges.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Widespread wildfires in northern Alberta have hindered harvesting plans by two forestry companies in the High Prairie region.

West Fraser that operates High Prairie Forest Products and Tolko presented their five-year plans for public comments at the Legion Hall.

However, plans for 2023 harvesting season changed somewhat when wildfires in the region started May 4.

“We were finalizing our harvest plans for the year when the wildfires hit,” says Stuart Adkins, West Fraser planning superintendent for north- central woodlands.

“Right now, we are changing our plans to salvage as much we can.”

He says the main fires that have impacted the company are the Grizzly wildfire between High Prairie and Swan Hills, the Kimiwan wildfire between McLennan and Nampa, and the Nipisi wildfire between Whitefish Lake First Nation and Smith east of the Town of Slave Lake.

“Over the past several weeks, we have been waiting to assess the fires,” Adkins says.

The annual open house was held to provide citizens opportunity to review proposed operating plans for 2023-24 and five-year Lesser Slave Lake Regional Forest Management Plan.

Tolko, too, has been hit by the fires, although its High Prairie mill has not been operating since a fire May 20, 2022 caused significant damage.

Tolko northwest regional forestry superintendent Hillary Wait says the company was planning the spatial harvest sequence from the regional management plan.

“We submitted plans for this year’s harvest in early May, but then the wildfires hit,” Wait says.

“We were planning harvests in Whitemud south of Falher and in the Salt Prairie area.

“It was a limited winter harvest.”

Wildfires has caused Tolko, also to change its direction for 2023.

“Our logging plans have changed a fire salvage,” Wait says.

The Kimiwan and Nipisi wildfires have also hindered harvesting plans for Tolko, she says.

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