Rossland council impressed by Atco

Atco Wood Products was at Rossland city council on Monday.

Atco Wood Products was at council on Monday after confusion arose from council’s concerns with logging around Nancy Greene last month.

Their presentation focused on Atco’s stance on responsible harvesting and replanting of forest resources. It also fit in since it is Natural Forestry Week in B.C.

CEO Scott Weatherford said Atco wanted to get out and introduce themselves to the councils in the area that it operates.

The diversified wood products company is located in Fruitvale.

“The original sawmill in Fruitvale started in 1945,” he said. “In 1959 Atco lumber was officially incorporated.”

The company has been in owner and president Rebeca Weatherford’s family since it was started over 50 years ago. Their core purpose is to “grow outstanding forests and produce exceptional wood products for generations.”

The company is involved in three major areas.

They manufacture softwood veneer, landscape ties, fence post stocks, wood chips, landscape bark and biomass. On the forestry side of things they do land management, harvest planning, silviculture and log merchandising.

They are also involved with transportation, with a short-line railway.

Weatherford said half their logs go to their plant in Fruitvale and half to other mills in the area.

“We have a very vibrant log merchandising trading program,” he said. “We also support a lot of the real small guys in the area, that are doing specialty cuts.”

Weatherford said one of those “small guys” is a man who builds hand-cut guitar tops out of spruce.

In terms of locality, he estimates that Grand Forks is the furthest that Atco logs travel.

“And that’s only if market conditions are right,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford said that there are not a lot of big players.

These small companies survive by figuring out how to trade logs and work with each other.

“So everyone is specialized in a different product,” he said. “And each mill trades their logs around to make sure each mill has the right log that makes their product, so it is a very unique model.”

Last year, Atco acquired the short-line railway that runs from Fruitvale to Columbia Gardens.

“Since we acquired it in May 2010, we put about a quarter million dollars back into rehabilitating that line.”

Atco employs 100 full time local staff, about half in the mill and half in harvesting, with additional part-time positions on the rail line.

Weatherford said the company also tries to buy local, with 80 per cent of their spending staying in the in the Kootenay region.

Craig Stemler, a professional forester who works for Atco, said that for each cut block, the company goes through a process which looks at what will be affected by the cut, such as animals and soil erosion.

“When we’re doing a crown cutting permit, we look at soils, wildlife, water and fish,” he said, adding that seven per cent per block is left for wildlife. They also look at the visual quality of where the cut will be, as well as if there is any cultural heritage that could be disturbed.

Stemler said the company tries to work with other groups like cross country skiers to facilitate backcountry access.

Stemler said 95 per cent of harvested areas are replanted within one year of a harvest and the planted blocks are monitored for nine to 15 years, until they reach a ‘free to grow’ stage.

 

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