Forests for Communities: Sheep Grazing

When we say communities benefit from a “working forest,” we mean managing a forest so that it can sustainably provide economic benefits while integrating habitat management, water, recreation, traditional cultural uses and visual impacts among others. West Fraser works hard to develop sustainable forest management plans so that all community members can enjoy the forest and its benefits for generations to come.

Sheep Grazing is a unique initiative in Chetwynd, British Columbia where sheep are used to manage the brush in the working forest. Using sheep in certain areas of the forest helps to address values that are vital to local Indigenous peoples. “Competing vegetation can cause challenges for proper tree growth, so we use sheep in sensitive areas to eat through the vegetation we need to be removed,” says Chelsea Chirico, Assistant Forester.

This summer, Saulteau First Nations trained a young flock to be forest grazers. Their shepherd taught them in a part of forestland West Fraser has made available to them. The young flock needs to learn about grazing in forestland as they are accustomed to eating hay on flat farmland.

Saulteau First Nations traditionally don’t use herbicide and provide feedback on where in the forest they don’t want herbicide sprayed. “The sheep are a great way for us to contribute to reducing the use of herbicide. Our sheep can feed on vegetation from June to the middle of August/September. Next year will be the first year of work for our herd,” says John Stokmans, Resource Technician (Forestry), Saulteau First Nations.

John mentions that their current herd is 300 sheep and they hope to have 600 soon. The sheep will also contribute to other businesses such as merino wool and dairy products. “We hope to have a fully operating farm eventually,” says John.

Our Chetwynd woods team works closely with local indigenous peoples on several important projects and shared interests. You can read about how West Fraser works with Chetwynd community partners: the District of Chetwynd, Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations to restore their community forest that was ravaged by the mountain pine beetle. You can also check out how we’re working with West Moberly First Nations to support berry planting.