Sustainable stewardship: Mosaic Forest Management puts the environment front and centre
Mosaic Forest Management, one of the largest forest management and harvesting companies on the B.C. Coast, has been working to reduce its carbon footprint in a variety of ways, putting the health of the forest first.
April 12, 2022 By Ellen Cools
Mosaic Forest Management is a well-known name in the forest industry, particularly on the B.C. Coast. The company, which manages both private timberlands and public forest tenures, has been operating on Vancouver Island “in one form or another” since 1913, explains Domenico Iannidinardo, the company’s vice-president of forest and climate and chief forester.
With 225 direct employees and approximately 2,000 people employed through long-term, primarily unionized contracts, Mosaic Forest Management is the largest private timberland producer in Canada by volume.
“Including our external fibre procurement program, we’re typically handling five to six million cubic metres per year at Mosaic,” Iannidinardo says. “It works out to about 10 per cent of the provincial production or one-third of Coastal British Columbia production.”
The company harvests primarily regenerated forests of Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar, in a range of sizes. Mosaic’s contractors do many different types of harvesting, including mechanized ground-based, and on steep slopes with tethered equipment, hand fallers, and helicopter logging. The logs are cut to a variety of lengths for their domestic and international customers.
“All logs produced in British Columbia from private or public land, by law, are required to be offered to domestic purchasers first before they can be exported. About half of our sales go to local customers, and the balance is exported,” Iannidinardo explains. “Those logs are typically exported to Asian markets and some American markets.”
Domestically, the logs go to over 50 different sawmills in B.C., as well as some pulp mills. The logs are delivered to the mills via truck or towed across the strait to mainland mills. Mosaic has one company crew with 17 trucks, and contracts over 250 additional log trucks across its land base to deliver over 500 loads daily to Mosaic facilities and local customers.
“We have all ranges of log truck configurations because of our range in custom lengths and sizes, to really maximize our utilization,” Iannidinardo says. “We utilize larger quad-axle trucks, central tire inflation, and other strategies to reduce fuel consumption.”
To produce this high volume of logs, Mosaic’s contractors use a wide variety of machinery, including equipment from Tigercat, John Deere, Caterpillar, Kenworth and local manufacturers like Madill, T-Mar, and Nicholson.
While the contractors are given freedom to choose which machines to use, Mosaic has emphasized standardizing safety features across their fleet. “For instance, we have telematics units in all of our contractors’ log trucks that work for Mosaic to help us monitor speed, convey information and dispatch trucks. Managing speed promotes safety and helps conserve fuel. We are deploying safety features like state-of-the-art electronic stability control and airbag systems into contractors’ equipment as they rotate new trucks into their fleets. Surprisingly, these are not standard with new trucks,” Iannidinardo says.
“The goal is, in our working groups with our contractors, to keep researching and sharing information so we can get the safest and most environmentally efficient equipment we can, as part of our continuous improvement,” he continues.
Reducing the carbon footprint
Speaking of the environment, much of Mosaic’s operations are focused on managing the forest sustainably and ensuring their operations are as environmentally friendly as possible.
Forest management is “a multi-decade investment in a biological asset,” Iannidinardo says. “That means it requires tending and nurturing. We have an orchard where we produce our own seed, which includes pest resistance and improved climate tolerance.”
As part of their forest management operations, Mosaic also collaborates with local pulp mills to “realize as much of the lower-end of the fibre spectrum as we can,” he says.
“Part of our objective for reforestation is to ensure the post-harvest status of a site is amenable to planting while also abating wildfire hazards,” he elaborates. “We recover fibre from those areas in many places with specialized equipment after primary harvest, and we’ll deliver that to pulp mills, or we will chip it on site.”
That chipping is done with a unique, self-propelled chipper that can follow the harvesting equipment around in the bush.
This chipper is a Bandit tracked machine that is remote controlled from an excavator’s cab. The chipper chips the residual fibre left over from logging operations, which is then dispersed back into the block to reduce the amount of slashpile burning that needs to happen, Iannidinardo explains.
These initiatives have helped Mosaic to reduce slashpile burning by over 25 per cent in the last five years, forming part of the company’s carbon improvement objectives.
Mosaic is also certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and was the first forest company in Canada to achieve that certification.
“We were also the first company in the world to, a few years ago, obtain certification for our organizational carbon footprint including Scope 1, 2 and certain Scope 3 emissions,” Iannidinardo adds.
As part of the company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, Mosaic has started to electrify its pick-up truck fleet. Mosaic also announced a trial of the world’s first electric log trucks in partnership with a local business, EcoWest Driven.
All of these efforts to ensure the sustainability of their operations are also communicated to local communities and First Nations through multiple campaigns and initiatives.
“We have a very big program, because of our location in particular, of communications with our neighbours, in our communities, with First Nations,” Iannidinardo explains.
Much of Mosaic’s operations are in areas of recreational interest to the public, so the company works with communities to provide opportunities such as campsites and mountain biking trails on its private land.
“We also have a whole team of foresters that work with schools, public interest groups, recreational organizations, and local environmental groups like the Pacific Salmon Foundation. The goal is to continuously improve the public interface, improve local habitat, and ensure cultural access for First Nations. The team is available to address questions or concerns that the community has,” he says.
Layers of uncertainty
But, like any forestry company in Canada, Mosaic also faces challenges in managing its business.
Log exports are an important part of Mosaic’s business. Under the current regulations, log producers must first offer their logs to domestic mills before they export them, and if a mill puts in an offer for the logs, the federal- or provincial-mandated body determines if that offer is a fair price.
“We are not against domestic mills having the first right to purchase our logs. The issue arises when local buyers offer an amount well below the international price for the same log. The government-mandated body determines whether the price is fair and that process often results in a substantial discount to what international customers are willing to pay,” Iannidinardo says. “It takes many decades to grow the tree, and we don’t know whether we can get a fair price until after its harvested and offered to local customers. Our local customers process our logs into wood products and often sell them into export markets capturing additional margin”.
“We are the only place in the North America where private logs are subject to these types of constraints, so that reduces the opportunity for us to make long-term arrangements with international customers,” he adds.
Over the last several years, there has been significant policy changes. “It has increased the uncertainty in our business. We are in a business with a multi-decade investment horizon. It is important to have a predictable, stable regulatory framework to have confidence that the investments we are considering today will pay off in the future.”
The B.C. government last November announced the deferral of old-growth logging, as many readers know. Although Mosaic harvests relatively little old-growth, it recently announced a new carbon crediting initiative on seven per cent of its private forest land.
Fibre supply in the province could also be impacted by the upcoming 2022 wildfire season, especially if it’s as severe as the devastating wildfires B.C. saw last summer. Mosaic, like many other logging contractors, had to curtail their operations during the fire season, which was tough on production, Iannidinardo says.
But, for now, it looks as though the healthy markets for forest products will continue, and this is beneficial for the industry, particularly as the world begins to recognize the environmental benefits of forestry, Iannidinardo says.
“It’s gratifying to work in an industry that contributes sustainable, culturally sensitive, low-carbon materials the world needs,” he explains.
And in the next five to 10 years, Mosaic plans to be leading the charge when it comes to sustainable forestry.
“Mosaic will continue its leadership, by demonstrating that sustainable forestry can simultaneously produce social, environmental and economic benefits,” he says.
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