Community Forests

With the arrival of the fur traders settling in the western regions, timber soon became one of the most essential commodities as homes were built. This was a huge undertaking as all of the timber was felled by axe and hand saws. It was then skidded by hand, oxen or horses. Lumber was produced at a rate of 100-300 board feet each day. Many of todays mills process over 1 million board feet per day.

Real production didn?t take place until the CPR reached Calgary in 1833. Once the rail line got to Calgary lumber could be shipped by rail and used in the the building of trestles and bridges and even firewood for the steam engines. The money generated from the production and shipping of lumber provided much needed cash flow for settlers. The mining industry also required lumber. Much of the development of Canada could not have taken place without our vast forest resources.

In 1899 the Federal Government created the Dominion Forestry branch which played a huge role in establishing the value of forests for future generations.

In 1919 million of acres of western forest was destroyed by fire. This prompted policies to be put in place to prevent and control forest fires and to protect the forest and watersheds. The next few years brought many changes as roads were being constructed to facilitate industry, settlers and of course the automobile.

In the 1930s Dominion gave control of the public lands and natural resources such as timber, oil and gas to provinces. Not much happened during the thirties as there was no money available. Then came World War II and another period of little growth. The one exception to this was the use of German prisoners of war who were transported to remote places in western Canada. These prisoners had volunteered to work in lumber camps. They stayed and worked for two and a half years. Many of these prisoners of war later chose to stay and continue working in the western forests. At that time in history, the mills were set up in the forest for the most part. Evidence of this is here in our area. Just south of Tumbler Ridge in the Red Willow area a local logger was harvesting timber on a small business sale and found the remains of one of these remote mills, a huge sawdust pile, a dilapidated horse barn and bunk house which were still intact with stove, bunks, etc. The log structure had been corked against the cold with newspaper. The papers were from the early 1940?s.

The timber for this and other mills scattered throughout the area was transported to Beaver Lodge by horse and sleigh. It was then trucked to where it was needed.