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JS Jones is taking on the tough job of profitably harvesting an
abandoned timber operation in the Queen Charlotte Islands.
By By Jim Stirlingg
You can call it a life raft to an island economy, or you can say its about time, but
it was excellent news for most local residents when J S Jones Holdings Ltd. announced it
was taking over an abandoned timber harvesting operation based in Sandspit, BC. J S
Jonesa privately owned, BC-based forest companyis no stranger to the region.
It has previous timber harvesting experience on the Queen Charlotte Islands and this
latest move makes it the operating agent for Moresby block 18 of TimberWests Tree
Farm Licence (TFL) 47. TimberWest found its Sandspit division unprofitable, given the
operations structure and its corporate priorities, and ceased operations in November
1997. About 90 loggers were laid off which with its indirect repercussions had
a huge and negative impact on Sandspits population of 550. The job drought continued
for more than 16 months. Employment insurance cheques ran out and some families were
forced to leave the islands. A fortunate handful of loggers got work when the Ministry of
Forests allowed some of TimberWests Forest Renewal BC related projects to proceed.
TimberWest wanted out and J S Jones wanted in, but the situation was complicated by
several factors. These included the interpretation under the provincial Forests Act of
recent court decisions reflecting aboriginal rights and title in BC. The Council of Haida
Nations and local band councils have a vested and vocal interest in the issue. The
transfer between the two companies necessitated splitting the TFL. J S Jones is interested
only in operating in the Queen Charlottes. Charlottes, while the TFLs cutting
privileges filter into other north and West Coast areas.
|Roadbuilding (above) presents typical Queen Charlotte
challenges, with switchbacks necessary on steep slopes and roads engineered to bridge
||Geoff Payne, production supervisor for J S Jones
Sandspit operation, stands in front of extra utilization wood bundles. The company does
not have to take this material out under the conditions of its agreement, but it chooses
to do so when it can load it at the same time as regular merchantable volumes.
The worst appears to be over, although the land claims issue remains
volatile province-wide. J S Jones has re-employed most of the TimberWest crews, gaining a
work force experienced with local conditions. And as the new steward, J S Jones is
introducing its own managerial philosophy and operating procedures. The company has been
busy cleaning up volumes left on the ground by TimberWest while developing new settings
and road-building plans to chart a course for the future. The companys portion of
the TFL is 100,000 cubic metres/year and it has additional volumes under forest and timber
licences. J S Jones plans to operate in the 145,000 cubic metre/year range for the best
utilization of resources, manpower and equipment, says Geoff Payne, production supervisor
for the companys Sandspit operation. The predominant species harvested are western
red cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock and yellow cedar. Logs from the Queen Charlotte
Islands will be barged south to be used in J S Jones BC mills or traded for wood for
those operations. The company runs a sawmill in Boston Bar in the Fraser Canyon, which is
slated to shutdown due to a lack of wood quota under the softwood lumber agreement, and a
cedar mill and whitewood facility in Surrey, east of Vancouver. Between 10 and 15 per cent
of J S Jones TFL is occupied by second growth forests steeped in both biological and
The Haida have used the bounty of the islands forests for thousands of years,
creating the tools of their livelihood from canoes to totemic symbols of their culture.
Stands clearcut 40 to 60 years ago are populated with fine healthy trees of Greenpeace
defying dimensions. They are testament to the mild, sea-tempered climate and productive
soils that characterize Canadas optimum tree growing sites. The second growth
forests will require a variety of harvesting and silvicultural systems on the part of J S
Jones, says Payne. Were getting our feet wet learning about second growth and
whats the best fit for equipment, timber types and harvesting conditions. In
general terms, hoe forwarding and grapple yarding in the Madill 123 size range are
harvesting systems more suitable for second and old growth stands. Helicopter and skyline
systems are more applicable to old growth. The company has developed an interesting
strategy for harvesting one of its second growth parcels, an 80-hectare area that was
originally logged around 1950.
The first of five scheduled passes took out 20 per cent of the volume, says Payne, and it
did so through patch cutting techniques that left openings down to one hectare in size.
The second 20 per cent pass is anticipated in 10 years time. Were managing for
fibre and an uneven aged forest through the patch cutting and leaving pass number five for
the stands old growth characteristics, says Payne. He adds the regeneration
implications of the patch cutting strategy will be assessed as the project matures. The
impact of gradually increasing volumes of second growth timber has initiated a trucking
and materials handling study to identify potential cost-saving efficiencies. They are
assessing the cost of hauling second growth timber, says Payne, and are looking at cycle
times, different truck/trailer configurations off and onhighway and the impacts on the dry
land sort. Clearly a highway load with 50 pieces is going to cause less of a logistical
problem at the sort than 200 pieces in an offhighway load.
The loads have to be spread for scaling and sorting before delivery to the saltchuck.
Tucked into a corner of the companys South Bay sort is evidence of another J S Jones
innovation: bundles of small wood down to three metres in length. The company has a policy
of extra utilization, explains Payne. These are incremental volumes the company does not
have to take out under the conditions of its agreements with the Ministry of Forests. But
it chooses to do so when it can grab them and load them at the same time as regular
merchantable volumes. Call it being tagged on a freight log. The company extracts more
pieces from its stated volume and has the mill capacity between its processing centres to
utilize them. Cedar butts, for example, can at least be converted to shingles. Another
result of extra utilization is a visibly cleaner harvested site with the inherent
advantages that entails. Payne says the company is experimenting with the bundle size of
extra utilization wood to better handle and control it. There are also plans to add a
hydraulic buttntop loader at the sort, again to better handle the bundles and
the smaller diameters associated with second growth harvesting.
The company runs the rest of the Charlotte operation, which
includes some harvesting equipment left over from the days of Crown Forest, a predecessor
company which worked the region before TimberWest came on the scene. J S Jones has timber
licences on the Kagan Peninsula, across the narrow Skidegate Channel separating Moresby
Island from Graham Island. The company uses its navya barge systemto access
them and transport the loaded logging trucks from the Graham Island claims back to Moresby
Island and the haul into the South Bay sort. Payne says the system removes the need and
associated handling costs for additional sorting yards and dewatering facilities. The
barge transports one loaded truck at a time carrying 58 to 65 cubic metres, depending on
the species. Crews are ferried across by water taxi or company launch. There are about 18
kilometres of road on the Kagan Peninsula. The areas closest to the islands stormy
West Coast are classified as a hyper maritime climate, meaning it rains and blows an awful
lot. We try not to be there in the worst of winter weather, says Payne. Road
building on the peninsula presents typical Queen Charlotte challenges, with switchbacks
necessary on steep slopes and roads engineered to bridge frequent gullies. An abundance of
culturally modified trees must be avoided. Payne says the rule of thumb is to maintain
sustained grades at 18 per cent with shorter ones in the 25 per cent range.
J S Jones is experimenting with the economics of leasing bridges for its non-main line
roads. Payne says the one and two piece modular steel bridges from Modular Bridge Systems
in Delta, BC are relatively simple to transport and install and can be moved to other
locations after use. They are also a boon to cash flow. The company has another
lease-to-purchase deal on a Cat 345 excavator for roadbuilding. J S Jones has inherited a
coastal watershed assessment area which Payne says is a sensitive area subject to sets of
measures and indices. The resulting recommendations from the areas stakeholders may
indicate no timber harvesting, limited harvesting or specified restrictions. During its
last four years, TimberWest was permitted to log two low elevation and one helicopter
block in the area. About 50 kilometres of road have been deactivated from semi-permanent
to permanent status. The program reduces road densities, sedimentation and potential
erosion sources, adds Payne. The company is hopeful its roadbuilding plans for the
watershed will be approved. Other activity in the area includes habitat improvement
streamwork under the Haida Fisheries Program. And for five years TimberWest, and now J S
Jones, has run a fish hatchery. Using water from the nearby Deena River, it raises 45,000
to 65,000 coho salmon fry annually. Protecting the premium fish values of the Copper River
is another major consideration for J S Jones.
Theyve removed some over-hanging vegetation on the non-river side of the Copper
River Main, opening up the road and allowing it to dry out faster and reduce
sedimentation, says Payne. J S Jones has a further structural strength to bring to its new
home: the chain of command is refreshingly short. The company is owned by brothers Tom and
Dick Jones, whose father, J S Jones, founded the company. Vice-president Allen Staheli and
Dan Robson, manager of forestry and engineering, complete the management team.
Its a hands-on operation for us with faster decision making, says Payne.
That, in turn, means the company experiences fewer delays and work shortages. Given recent
past history in the area, that is comforting to the loggers, their families and the
community of Sandspit.