Indigenous Forestry Sector Technical Support Program
Since the program’s launch in 2007, FPInnovations has been supporting Indigenous stakeholders in the development of forest-based economic opportunities. FPInnovations works directly with community leaders to determine the products and services that are appropriate for the specific needs of each community.
We believe in working directly with the people in the community to create solutions and build partnerships. More than 75 Indigenous communities and/or organizations in British Columbia alone have engaged in this program. Building on this success, the program expanded into Alberta in 2014 and the Maritimes. Additionally, FPInnovations is working on a project-to-project basis with Indigenous stakeholders across the country.
Kluskus Combined Heat and Power System
The Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation is a small community located in central British Columbia, with their main territory stretching to the west of Quesnel along the Black Water River. The community is not connected to the power or natural gas grid and relies on diesel and propane supplies being brought in along the 2-hour drive on forest services road.
First Nation: Lhoosk’uz Dené
Location: Kluskus, Central BC
Chief: Liliane Squinas
The Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation is a small community located in central British Columbia, with their main territory stretching to the west of Quesnel along the Black Water River. At the heart of the territory lies Kluskus R1, the main settlement of the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation right on the shores of Kluskus Lake. The community is not connected to the power or natural gas grid and relies on diesel and propane supplies being brought in along the 2-hour drive on forest services road.
The Quesnel Timber Supply Area has been heavily affected by the mountain pine beetle outbreak and consequently experienced intense wildfires in recent years. Kluskus was evacuated three years in a row, narrowly escaping complete destruction. Apart from the immense devastation of the immediate area around the community, these disturbances caused severe consequences for traditional land use such as hunting and trapping, berry picking, and medicine.
Protecting the community from future wildfires while re-establishing the land base became the key focus for the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation. This is where FPInnovations was called upon to provide guidance on identifying a solution that could not only protect the community from wildfire, but also utilize biomass materials around the Kluskus. FPInnovations suggested to go one step further and make use of the biomass to provide sustainable heat and power to the community.
Description of project
In initial discussions with Allan Okabe, band manager for the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, it became clear to FPInnovations that the key need was to reduce the amount of biomass around the community to mitigate the fire risk. While the devastation of the entire territory was too large of a scope to begin with, FPInnovations suggested focusing on the immediate area around Kluskus, taking advantage of FireSmart operations—a program aimed at reducing the risk that wildfires pose to populated areas—to fuel a potential combined heat and power unit. A feasibility study revealed that the approach was a good fit for the small community and the idea was received positively by the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation.
Thinning work to reduce the level of fire risk was already underway, yielding the equivalent of 10 hectares (about 2,000 cubic metres) of dead standing trees which could be used to fuel the unit. Harvested trees already showed great potential to be processed into chips or fuel for the cogeneration system.
With clear marching orders in hands, researchers from FPInnovations identified a suitable CHP system. Made in Finland, the mobile ‘Volter’ unit, installed in a 40’ shipping container, allows for the generation of heat and energy by converting forest biomass into a wood gas, and then transforming it into 110kW of heat and 40kW of power. Stringent tests, predominantly on feedstock quality, were carried out at FPInnovations in Vancouver. The trial period also allowed for a training session, provided by Volter, to 10 members of the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation.
During the trial and training period, FPInnovations continued to develop the project and completed all necessary engineering work to bring the energy system to Kluskus. After three joint funding applications, the project received $300,000 from the British Columbia Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative, $875,000 from Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities and $900,000 from Natural Resources Canada’s Indigenous Forestry Initiative. These funds, together with funding and technical support through FPInnovations Indigenous Forest Sector Technical Support Program, made it possible to move the system to Kluskus in early March 2021. The project is currently procuring equipment for the biomass supply chain and is working on the electrical interconnection in the community.
Upon installation, the unit will displace close to 100,000 litres of diesel per year and will also remove the equivalent of 300 tonnes of GHG emissions annually. The system will create two full-time jobs to operate the unit and 5 to 10 additional jobs in the feedstock supply chain.
The business model also significantly changed the economics in the community: while, historically, the community had to purchase diesel for the operation of the generators, this money will now remain within and benefit the community directly.
The community also plans to produce biomass from harvested trees, an activity that could represent an additional source of income, as well as use the heat from the CHP to achieve food security and for silviculture projects. But above all, these measures will help protect the community, and restore the natural forest environment.
Our territory has been heavily impacted by mountain pine beetle and several large wildfires. The combined heat and power generator provides us with a viable option for alternative energy. We will be transitioning from diesel generators to utilizing local biomass fuels. In addition to utilizing local biomass, we will also be able to implement our traditional knowledge and stewardship practices on the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation territory.
The Lhoosk’uz Dené (Kluskus) Nation has been engaged with FPInnovations since we were introduced to the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology in 2018. Our off-grid community is sited approximately 190 km west of Quesnel, and is powered by diesel generators. Our territory was heavily impacted by pine beetle, and the dead pine is the required fuel to be chipped, dried, and fed into the CHP unit to produce the power supply for the community. We will be creating a green power supply, while removing the biomass fire hazard surrounding the community.
-Chief Liliane Squinas
FPInnovations concluding remarks
FPInnovations has been working on CHP technology for off-grid communities for the past 5 years, investigating technologies, biomass feedstock quality, and supply chains for a successful operation of these system. Working with the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation on one of the first implementations in a remote community in Canada has been a great journey which will soon come to a big milestone with the installation of the CHP in the community. Although we know there is still much to tackle to ensure smooth operation, we are feeling very confident that other communities could follow the Lhoosk’uz Dené (Kluskus) Nation. We are very honored to support the community in this endeavor.
-Christoph Schilling – Indigenous Program Lead
Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils
Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils is a socially-driven entity formed by the alliance of eight First Nations on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii and aimed at literally ‘providing a bottle of nature’ to customers, so they could connect their mind and body to the rainforest through scent for its soothing, calming and health benefits.
First Nations: Metlakatla Stewardship Society and Nunumus Management Limited (the economic arm of the Nuxalk Nation)
Location: British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii
Web site: www.greatbearessentialoils.ca
Along the north and central coast of BC, the Great Bear Rainforest covers 6.4 million hectares of protected areas and is home to several First Nations. It is the starting point of Great Bear Rainforest® Essential Oils, a social enterprise supported by Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative. Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils is a socially-driven entity formed by the alliance of eight First Nations on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii.
Several years ago, with the assistance of business students at Royal Roads University and its Centre for Non-Timber Resources, plus funding assistance from a variety of funders supporting small business development, a few First Nations from the Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative alliance undertook a pre-feasibility study to assess the viability of a project for the production and distribution of steam-distilled conifer essential oils. With these essential oils, the First Nations aimed at literally ‘providing a bottle of nature’ to customers, so they could connect their mind and body to the rainforest through scent for its soothing, calming and health benefits. The essential oils are made from fresh, sustainably harvested conifer needles gathered in the region, and are inspired by the traditional ways Indigenous peoples have used these trees for millennia.
Considering their remote location, the newness of conifer essential oil distillation to the region and with regard to the high quality of their product, founders of Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils knew they would need help to set up aspects of their business, including production and processing solutions, price determination and commercial distribution, among others, and they called upon FPInnovations to accompany and support them in the various different development steps of this journey.
Description of project
From the very first stages of the project, from feasibility through to research and development, to production start-up and subsequent growth, the group has relied upon its collaboration with FPInnovations. Their participation included support in many aspects of development, including business development, marketing and branding support, assistance determining safety of materials during transportation and spill clean-up procedures, quality control testing procedures, development of complementary products, and marketing strategies. Acting as development partners, FPInnovations brought its knowledge to help expand the product lines, and secured support from Indigenous-led consulting companies.
Now that this social venture business has launched, Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils is currently looking for new customers and ways to increase sales, and again can count on help and support from FPInnovations. This could lead to the creation of a new range of products such as soaps and candles, while expansion is expected to the national market and possibly to reach international markets.
Since start-up of the business, the company has secured permanent seasonal jobs (4-5) in the communities to maintain the production line and complete orders. Thanks to the launch of a Shopify website along with a national distributor, Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils are now available across Canada. During the summer, additional jobs are being supported through sales in kiosks, tourism destinations and local stores within the Great Bear Rainforest territory.
Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils promotes the active participation of Indigenous women and youth in the company. On a regional level, two women hold strategic positions, including general manager – operations, bringing their support to recent phases of work.
It is an exciting time as Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils has just released three new blends that incorporate the Sitka Spruce, Shore Pine and Douglas Fir essential oils combined with Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary, Peppermint, Orange, Vetiver, and more. Development continues for the creation of new products based on different species such as Pine, Western Hemlock, Red Cedar, and Douglas Fir as well as for the expansion to a larger territory, both national and international. With the Japanese medical community and culture already accepting of the health benefits of ‘forest bathing’ (or Shin-rin Yoku as it’s known in Japan), the opportunity exists for expansion into this marketplace with foreign distribution.
Speaking from the perspective of the Nuxalk community, this project has been a source of considerable pride, as we are able to broaden the base of economic activity to include generating sustainable employment and income from harvesting non-timber forest products. This is much in keeping with indigenous cultural practices, and has attracted the broad support of the Stataltmc (hereditary Chiefs) as well as elected Chief and Council.
What a delight and gift to have access to sustainably harvest oils from these precious forests. Thank you so much, Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils, for providing these wonderful wildcrafted oils, sustainably harvested right here on the coast of beautiful British Columbia.
I discovered the Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils website during my searches for locally harvested and crafted essential oils, understanding that I would probably have a difficult time. I was nothing short of thrilled when I discovered these oils coming from right here in BC. I was praying to find tree oils, and I did! And, upon learning about the initiative, I am just so thankful this project exists. It is a joy supporting local, sustainable, Indigenous, and these precious forests, while enjoying nature’s gifts with care and respect. I purchased the Douglas Fir (just beautiful) and the Sitka Spruce (forest in a bottle). I am grateful to now have access to these beloved trees while currently near the city, Thank you, truly, for this project!”
-Jessica, April 26, 2020
FPInnovations concluding remarks
Working with Great Bear Rainforest Essential Oils has been an interesting and exiting journey. As one of the first projects in the field of non-timber forest products, GBREO has really pushed the envelope in what value and revenue streams in the forest can mean. For FPInnovations, it has also been a great opportunity to become more active in this field and has led to many other projects now such as the extraction of tannins from Hemlock Bark or the tapping of Birch for a birch water beverage. We also like to thank Western Economic Diversification and the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development for their ongoing support with this project.
-Christoph Schilling – Indigenous Program Lead