Under the iconic and enormous cross-cut saw arch and down the dirt road, Shilo Freer feeds behemoth aspen beams through the 80-year-old mill at Son Ranch, in the middle of a clearing surrounded by glowing yellow leaves.
Forty-eight down and 82 12-by-12s to go – enough to eventually stretch from the Hwy 3 bridge over the Kettle to Gallery 2 in Grand Forks, all for a mine project near Princeton.
“I always had options,” Freer said of his career choices, taking a break from the mill. “But this is the best one.”
The Freer family has owned Son Ranch for three decades and their nearby woodlot for just about as long. Earlier this month, Son Ranch Timber Co. was rewarded for their forestry stewardship with the Minister’s Award for Innovation and Excellence in Woodland Management for the southern region of the province.
“Their commitment to forest health, reforestation, public education and promotion of manufactured British Columbia wood products supports the woodlot licence program’s core principles of sustainability, good stewardship, social licence and public trust,” said Doug Donaldson, the minister responsible for forestry, in a press release.
B.C. boasts 855 active woodlots, which are licensed area-based tenures that can be managed by individuals, groups or First Nations. Licence holders are given the rights to manage Crown timber within the woodlot licence area but must also manage any private land contribution according to provincial forestry legislation as well, meaning that the agreement restrains some of the more cavalier logging practices sometimes exercised on strictly private properties.
IMAGE: Shilo Freer pushes a 12-foot-long 12-by-12 aspen beam through the mill at Son Ranch on Friday. (Jensen Edwards/ Grand Forks Gazette)