|Despite increasingly intense competition from forest producers outside the
region, the future of Northwestern Ontarios wood product industrial base seems
The Ontario governments recent "Hardwood
Initiative" that encouraged increased harvest and use of poplar has led to a
significant round of expansion. A $110-million oriented strandboard plant has opened in
Barwick, near Fort Frances, and a
$21-million specialty hardwood mill in Thunder Bay. A new sawmill is being built by Weyerhauser Canada Ltd. at Ear Falls and Tolko Industries
of British Columbia is planning a large OSB plant in the Vermilion Bay-Kenora area.
Buchanan Forest Products is considering a new sawmill at Nakina.
But the strongest push within regional industrial and
economic development circles is to promote value-added initiatives and to recognize the
social and cultural values of the forest rather than increasing timber extraction.
One such initiative is being pursued by Development Thunder Bay, the
citys economic development agency. Under the title "Forest Centre of
Excellence," DTBs Forest Sector Strategy Task Force seeks ways to increase
value-added manufacturing, increase research and development and technological development
within the regions wood industry.
Though far from major markets and manufacturing
centres, Northwestern Ontario has a tradition of innovation that has been exported outside
Jack Eynon, a construction superintendent with Abitibi
Power and Paper Company Ltd. (now Abitibi-Consolidated) invented what became known as the
Eynon load-aligner. Eventually licenced to Koehring-Watrous for manufacture, it continues
to be used throughout eastern Canada and northeastern United States wherever short-length
pulpwood (250 cm) is cross loaded on truck-trailer units. Another of Eynons
innovations was the Eynon panel-camp. This modular-design camp virtually replaced log
construction and solid frame camp buildings and remained for more than 20 years the prime
mode of construction until the advent of trailers.
Another Thunder Bay native Edward Maradyn applied his
skills of invention and innovation to the forest sector for more than 30 years. Maradyn,
manager of Nesco Engineering, and Ole Olson created the first tree-length portable
slasher, a machine that allowed a three-man crew to handle either pulpwood or sawlogs. The
late Ross Silversides, one-time Design Engineer for Abitibi, described Ed Maradyn as a
true genius in the design of harvesting and silviculture forestry equipment.
In the 1950s site preparation of harvested areas in
the Boreal Forests of Ontario was in its infancy. Amongst those who were instrumental in
advancing on-ground innovations in this field were Jack Flowers and George Brown who
worked with the then Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. Different configurations of
site-preparation equipment were designed in a matter of a few years starting with
concrete-filled barrels and anchor chains.
Mechanical inventor Bob Larson developed the first
single tree-length harvester in the 1960s. It was mass produced by Beloit, sold and put in
operation throughout eastern North America and parts of Europe.
The Tree Farmer skidder was produced under licence
by Canadian Car (presently Bombardier Inc.) of
Thunder Bay. The local plant was responsible for later developments and improvements to
this line of machinery. This was the first application of articulated frame steering in
forestry equipment and led to the development of other skidders and heavy forestry
Another example of advanced technological application is
the expansion of Spectrum Nurseries in Dryden. The private tree seedling operation is
building a two-hectare greenhouse that will produce eight million seedlings a year. The
facility will incorporate a closed-loop flood irrigation system to eliminate environmental
risk from fertilizers, special floor heating and a new roof retractor system.
nothing has nurtured forest-related research and practical talent more than Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Formerly Lakehead
Technical Institute, then the Lakehead College of Arts, Science and Technology, it
established the first forest technology program in Ontario in 1947. Lakehead also created
the first co-op forestry program in North America. It is the only university in Canada
with a Forestry diploma program and has the only baccalaureate forestry program in
Ontario. The Faculty of Forestry
operates three masters-level programs, including an MF Distance Education program, the
first in Canada, and has a special Chair in Forest Policy and Management.
Lakehead Forestry has 21 faculty and teaching staff. There
are more than 200 degree students, 60 diploma students and 30 graduate students. The
Faculty is also fortunate to have the Centre for
Northern Forest Ecosystem Research, funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources, right on campus.
Its researchers serve as adjunct professors, although not generally in instruction.
LU Forestrys field laboratory areas include 35
hectares of nearby George Burke Park, the 1059-hectare Jack Haggerty Research and Wood
Lot, a 288-hectare forest at Silver Mountain and the 7,144-hectare Raith Research and
Demonstration Forest (in collaboration with Abitibi-Consolidated).
Research and technical development at Lakehead has had
considerable influence on the provinces forest industry during the last 30 years.
Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing (GIS/RS), silviculture, harvesting and
sampling design are but a few of the areas where LUs Forestry Program has
contributed to the forest industry.
Related research on campus is also at the Centre for
Northern Studies. Staffed by six cross-appointed professors, its research specialties
include pulp and paper chemistry, ecology, transportation and forest industry economics.
The centre has hosted two conferences, one an international meeting of circumpolar
Other major forest-related work includes:
The Wild Rice Research Project, which has made
Lakehead a national centre of expertise and quality testing. It also offers a technical
extension service to growers associations in five provinces.
Lakehead University Seedling Technology Research Cooperative (LUSTRE) is a
collaboration involving the Forestry and Biology departments and the Thunder Bay Tree
Growers Association to conduct applied research and provide ongoing advice to growers.
Lakehead is also one of several universities across Canada
engaged in a federal Centres of Excellence research project into pulp and paper
processes. LU has researched aspects of mill control systems, peroxide bleaching and the
photostability (yellowing) of mechanical pulps.
A joint province/industry-funded project between the
department of Physics and Northern Wood Preservers to improve the kiln-drying of lumber to
Forest R&D at Lakehead is not confined to science and
engineering. Another venture blending applied and basic research is the Centre for
Archaeological Research Prediction, a unique interdisciplinary project using GIS data to
predict the location of ancient cultural sites.
The desirable future of forestry in Northwestern Ontario
might be exemplified by Lakeheads successful bids in two national competitions in
the past year; both funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. One is a $2.5
million program in northwestern Ghana, West Africa and the other a $750,000 project in
Nepal, south-east Asia. Both are five-year ventures and each involves forest conservation
and community outreach initiatives. Five partner-institutions will participate in the
Ghana program and three in Nepal with Lakehead the lead university in both instances and
Dr. J. Naysmith of the Faculty of Forestry as Program Director. At the announcement this
fall Diane Marleau, Minister for International Cooperation said the selection of Lakehead
makes the University a leader in the world scene of international forestry.