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)

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)

Son Ranch Timber Co. wins provincial award for woodlot management

The Freer family has been operating the business for nearly 30 years

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.

The Freer family operates what Freer described as a “roots-to-roof family thing.” Together the family manages their woodlots (the acquired a second one last year), along with much of the milling and moulding process for their timber.

“I think this is what the future of forestry should be. Value added, using and doing more with less and making it worth more in the end.

While they’re selectively harvesting massive aspens right now, Freer said that they’ve never had to make a concerted effort to replant their woodlot.

“We’ve actually never really had to because we don’t decimate the forest floor so much,” he said. “There’s so much natural regeneration that it just grows back.”

As a result, their woodlots boast a variety of cedar, aspen, pine, fir, which in turn helps protects the forest and the business from failure.

“We’re pretty lucky having the variety that we do,” said Freer. “Bugs can’t kill all one thing at one time, like what happened up north where it just wiped out the whole forest when the pine beetle got all the pine.”

“It’s about being good stewards,” Freer said about successfully and sustainably operating the family business.

“Their operation is an excellent example of stewardship through selection logging, maximization of harvested fibre through added value wood products and contribution to the local economy through tourism,” said Jeff Beale, president of the Federation of British Columbia Woodlot Associations, in a release.

“The Freer’s passion for their woodlot, the woodlot program and contributions to local forestry are evident by just one look at the chainsaw collection and museum that Ross has put together.”

Not all of the 1,000-plus chainsaws that Ross Freer has are on display in the timber-frame building built by Shilo out of trees scorched in the 2015 Rock Creek fire, but there are more than enough to draw tourists from B.C. and abroad to learn more about logging in the Boundary.

The Freers were also given $2,500 as part of the minister’s award, as did Moutain View Silviculture Ltd. (Smithers, B.C.) for the northern award and Kevco Timber Ltd. (northern Vancouver Island) for the coast area minister’s award.


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo screen-shot from School District 51’s website
COVID-19 infection confirmed in Boundary School District

Those potentially exposed to the virus have been told to self-isolate, says acting Superintendent

Stock image.
Judge tells Grand Forks man accused of theft to guard his personal property

Edward ‘Joe’ Wright is accused of a break and entering at a flood-damaged property in North Ruckle

Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Greenwood man to stand trial for alleged stabbing

Grand Forks provincial court will set a trial date next month

Grand Forks Mounties look on as a tow truck prepares to haul an SUV involved in a Highway 3 crash near the intersection of Spraggett Road Friday, April 9. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
First responders attend Highway 3 crash in Grand Forks

No one appears to be hurt in the two-vehicle crash which highway stopped traffic in both directions

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Most Read