Pacific BioEnergy (PacBio) is turning to some BC forest history this summer while conducting ‘brushing & weeding’ activities under its silviculture responsibilities. PacBio is testing the use of goats and sheep on sites totaling approximately 150 hectares in the Bobtail Fire Rehabilitation Area as an alternative to using mechanical equipment or herbicide applications. Use of goats and sheep to help with reforestation was common in the 1990s and earlier in the BC Interior but the practice has become less common since then.
PacBio Planning Forester, Aiden Wiechula states, “PacBio has been working in the Bobtail area hit hard by a wildfire in 2015 for the past two years. We are taking burnt wood unwanted by other mills and converting it to wood pellets for customers in Japan and Europe. With harvesting opportunities comes reforestation responsibilities including getting recently replanted sites to the ‘free to grow’ stage. PacBio has always been an innovator in the wood pellet industry. We were the first to perfect onsite grinding of wood fibre that otherwise would have been ‘piled & burned’. We are the first to consider introduction of more Aspen in our reforestation plans and now we’re using a clean, green, and re-vitalizing method to achieve our ‘brushing & weeding’ obligations.”
PacBio is working with two local companies providing goats and sheep. The first is BC Timber Goats of Quesnel, BC. Owner Bruce Bradley manages about 100 goats using herding dogs and drones. The second company is owned by Bonnie Zawada and Tom Robertson who have a ranch on Blackwater Road. Their 80 sheep and 20 goats have forestry brushing experience on sites adjacent to their ranch. Tom gained experience with sheep grazing for silviculture when it was more widely used in the 1990s.
BC Timber Goats owner, Bruce Bradley says, “Goats prefer to feed on herbaceous material and deciduous trees, and they clear the lower canopy so crop trees can compete. Goats provide further value to forestry because they do not just eliminate competing vegetation, goats harvest and biologically process this fiber, and redistribute that matter back into the soil. This increases soil biological activity and makes the landscape more resilient and productive over time. Finally, the goats are delivering a tremendous amount of renewable, kinetic energy to the forest surface, our 110 goats are constantly trampling and degrading dry surface fuels, which reduce the fire hazard and speed their decomposition.”
PacBio Woodlands Manager, Joe Kenney adds, “Part of our decision to use goats and sheep in this area of the Bobtail was to continue moving forward on our sustainability efforts. Avoiding the use of loud, diesel-driven mechanical equipment together with the benefits of using goats and sheep should have an incredibly positive outcome for the recently planted seedlings and area wildlife. We will continue to look for innovative ways to conduct our business in the most sustainable manner possible.”
PacBio President and CEO, John Stirling states, “PacBio is proud to take low-grade and burnt wood fibre and make high-energy, all-natural wood pellets for sale to customers in Japan and Europe. We use the latest technologies in our pellet plant to make high-quality wood pellets and we have the best forest planning and partnerships to acquire our wood fibre. We see the use of goats and sheep in our reforestation work as just another part of our creative and sustainable approach. We are not afraid to try new strategies when it makes sense from a forest management perspective or in producing our high-quality pellets. At PacBio, we will keep pushing the boundaries of innovation and ingenuity, even if means trying a traditional practice such as using goats and sheep to help our reforestation efforts.”