Graham MacDonald holds up a package of dried bracken fern during his discussion on non-timber forest products as part of the Speaker's Corner series at St. John Gualbert Church in Port McNeill last Thursday.

Forest contains more value than trees

PORT McNEILL-Speaker's Corner guest shares market potential of non-timber forest products.

PORT McNEILL—North Vancouver Island’s forests contain millions of dollars in harvestable value — and that doesn’t even include the trees for which the region is known.

That was the message of Graham MacDonald to an audience of 20 people Mar. 20 in the monthly Speaker’s Corner series at St. John Gualbert Church.

He should know. From salal to sea asparagus to berries and mushrooms, MacDonald, a longtime North Island mechanic, has years of experience harvesting, processing and selling non-timber products.

Those items can be turned into a viable economic benefit to North Islanders, he said, but only through the combined efforts of local communities, the forestry industry and a political will to make it happen.

“These resources, they have to belong to the communities,” said MacDonald. “The TFL (tree-farming license) is the problem, because the logging companies won’t let you in.”

The bush boasts an array of potentially marketable products, with uses ranging from gourmet food, preserves, juice and tea to home decor to medicine and more. MacDonald believes a market in biodegradable packaging could also come from the area’s flora.

This is no theoretical pipe dream for MacDonald. Starting with processing of bracken fern in his own basement — “My wife developed a horrendous hatred for the smell of it” — he produced and sold 2,700 pounds of the material in three years.

But the he found out the fern was was being treated by herbicides by forestry companies. And that was only the first of the hurdles he encountered in trying to harvest on tree-farming land.

“Then it started to get complicated; now we had a problem,” he said. “For me, the politics got started. It became very disheartening … I started creating conflict between me and the forestry people, which took a lot of the fun out of it for me.”

The products are out there, he said. But a cooperative effort will be needed to turn them into an economic driver for the North Island. Dawn Moorhead of the Grassroots Garden Society agreed, noting grants are available for local food security issues — including money for a processing facility that could allow an export business on the North Island.

But, she said, political will is needed to apply for and secure the grants which could lead to such a facility. And MacDonald agrees.

“We have these new rules about food, and it’s a killer. You can’t get off the floor anymore,” MacDonald said. “You’ve got the provincial level, you’ve got your federal level. And it you want to export your product, which you need to do to create dollars, you have to meet the standards of two levels of food safety. It’s a lot of money.”

MacDonald called for the North Island to embrace agroforestry, which involves manipulating wild flora to enhance a market harvest. As examples, he cited pruning of wild berry bushes to increase yield, or boosting mushroom production by drilling holes in fallen logs and manually spreading spores.

“Private (forestry) companies in the States, they have their own bush house, and they have their own people picking,” said MacDonald. “They do it themselves and they make more money per acre with non-timber forest products than they ever did logging it. But up here, we ignore that.”

The next Speaker’s Corner is scheduled for Apr. 24 and will feature Colleen McCormick, speaking on tourism issues and possibilities for the North Island.

 

Just Posted

VIDEO: Saanich resident shocked when trespasser licks security camera, rummages through mail

‘I found the situation really bizarre,’ said the Gordon Head resident

BC Ferries crew member taken to hospital after getting struck by bow doors

Two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were cancelled

Commercial fisheries off-loading business booming in Port Hardy

Off-loading facilities pack, ice, and load in totes the fish that are caught by commercial fishermen

STRIKE: WFP and USW are back at the table for mediation

“No further updates until either an agreement is reached or one party or the other breaks off talks”

ELECTION 2019: It’s so close, it could come down to who turns out to vote

Black Press Media’s polling analyst on the origins of predictive seat modelling in Canada

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Most Read