Wolfram Wollenheit (left) and Sibylle Walkemeyer have received an award for innovation and excellence in woodlot management from the Federation of B.C. Woodlot Associations.

European touch works in the B.C. woods

B.C. has more than 860 active woodlots, small-scale timber producers

B.C. has more than 860 active woodlots, which are small-scale timber producers and are integral in the long-term planning, harvesting and reforestation efforts around the province.

Wolfram Wollenheit and his wife Sibylle Walkemeyer manage Woodlot License W1641 west of Campbell River, near Echo Lake. Wollenheit is currently the President of the North Island Woodlot Association and serves on the executive of the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations (FBCWA), and he and his wife have just been recognized with one of three annual awards for innovation and excellence in woodlot management at the annual meeting of the FBCWA held last month in Golden.

“I guess our friends conspired against us,” Wollenheit laughed. “It’s nice to see all our efforts recognized, but it was a bit of a surprise. We had no idea it was happening.”

Wollenheit and Walkemeyer emigrated to B.C. from Germany in 1992. Both were foresters by trade, and the woodlot model is, according to Wollenheit, “as close to the European model of forestry as you can get here.”

They received woodlot W1641 and have been “farming” it ever since.

According to Wollenheit and Walkemeyer, it is kind of like farming.

“It was set up so that regular citizens would manage Crown land on a sustainable basis,” Wollenheit said. “Because they’re small parcels of land, it’s easier to get to know them and manage them properly. Like a farm. When you work one area of land for a long time, you get to know the soils, the ecosystems, how they work. You need to spend some time in a place to understand it and know how the ecosystem reacts to different management practices.”

That’s the main advantage to woodlot operation versus large-scale forestry operation, they said. In-depth knowledge of the area being managed enables the operator to more carefully and diligently plan their harvesting and planting to make it more efficient – and profitable. That’s another advantage. Unlike large-scale forestry operations which, according to Wollenheit, need to log more timber when market prices go down, woodlots do the opposite.

“It’s like a store,” he said. “When the prices are good on Hemlock, you go over there (where your Hemlock is) and cut more Hemlock. When it goes down, you cut something else that’s worth more.”

That’s not to say it’s an extremely lucrative endeavour, though.

“Most woodlot operators have other jobs,” Walkemeyer said. “It’s very hard to make a living on it just by itself.”

Which is why Wollenheit and Walkemeyer opened Econ Consulting in Black Creek, where they assist other woodlot operators with the best ways of doing what they do.

“Basically,” Wollenheit said, “we solve problems.”

Because woodlot operators have to do everything (harvesting, planting, mapping, sales, accounting, monitoring, creating safety plans and any number of other things, including dealing with government ministries) and everyone has different strengths in different areas, there are always going to be gaps in people’s knowledge. That’s where Wollenheit and Walkemeyer come in.

With their extensive knowledge in the business, along with that of their two other partners and three staff, the gaps in their clients’ skills don’t have to be such a detriment to success.

“We do whatever everybody needs,” Wollenheit said. “We fill in the gaps and take people’s headaches away.”

If you have questions about what Wollenheit and Walkemeyer do, want to see if they can help you with your woodlot, or want to congratulate them on their award, contact Econ Consulting at 250-337-5588.