Newspaper series shines light on sustainability and technology of forestry industry

2013-10-11 Ashley Bach

It's not very often that one can have a front row seat to the complex process of finding, harvesting and selling timber, but that's exactly what the Vancouver Sun did with a recent multipart series of articles, videos and photos.

The six-day series, called "The Journey of a Log," follows West Fraser Timber as it surveys, harvests, mills and eventually sells a stand of beetle-damaged timber in Quesnell, British Columbia. Obviously, West Fraser is a Canadian competitor to American wood products companies, but anyone involved in the industry will recognize the same challenges and thrills described in the newspaper series. 

This kind of journalism is also critical to helping the public understand the forestry industry from the inside, including the industry's focus on sustainability, its adoption of the latest technology and the vast reach of wood products around the world.

Here is how Vancouver Sun reporter Gordon Hamilton described the series:

(The trees in Quesnell) will be cut by loggers, trucked to one of the world’s largest and most modern sawmills in Quesnel, and broken down into basic products that everyone knows and uses. But we are largely unaware of where these products come from, the people who make them, and how many different uses for a tree there in fact are.

Our tree becomes lumber for the recovering U.S. housing market, pulp destined for China — where it becomes packaging for consumer goods shipped back to us — or plywood for Canadian home builders. Its bark is burned for energy to fuel the industrial machines that create useful consumer goods. Some of that energy is sold to BC Hydro, and could be powering your laptop or re-charging your smartphone.

Even the sawdust is gathered up and sent to an engineered wood-products plant, where it is moulded under pressure into fibreboard. It ends up in kitchen cabinets, door frames and home furnishings that will be sold up and down the West Coast of North America.

Vancouver Sun readers sent letters to the paper with their appreciation for the series, and Kathy Abusow, the President of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, was so impressed that she wrote an op-ed praising the Sun's work.

Abusow:

This commendable six-part feature captured a lot of attention across the forest sector with its timely themes, highlighting the importance of healthy and thriving forests to society, environment and overall economy. The forest sector is slowly returning to economic health. At the same time, we need to be working more aggressively to improve environmental conditions in our forests. This includes addressing the effects of the devastating pine beetle epidemic, and preparing for a changing climate.

Below are links to all the stories in the commendable series, "The Journey of a Log."

DAY 1:

Finding trees to harvest in a beetle-damaged forest

DAY 2:

Surveying the forest

DAY 3:

Logging the trees

DAY 4:

Milling the logs

DAY 5:

Using woody biomass

Focus on replanting

DAY 6:

Selling the lumber

Finding new ways to use wood