Hupacasth First Nation harvests trees for sticky gold

CANADA, July 18 – Through an innovative approach, the Hupacasath First Nation of Port Alberni is receiving nearly $112,000 in funding from the Government of British Columbia through the Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program.

Since time immemorial, members of the Hupacasth First Nation have inhabited their territory in central Vancouver Island. Now, from the pristine forests of the Alberni Valley, they create Kleekhoot Gold Big Leaf Maple Syrup from 100% big leaf maple sap. This species creates a syrup with a unique and indescribably different flavor from the sugar maple of eastern Canada.

Doug Routley, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, and Josie Osborne, MP for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, toured the Kleekhoot facility. “By locally producing maple syrup from the abundance of bigleaf maples unique to the west coast of British Columbia, the Hupacasath First Nation is showing us how we can all enjoy our forests in new and sustainable,” Routley said.

“Bigleaf maple has always been used by Hupacasath as a wood for smoking fish and game,” said Chief Brandy Lauder of the Hupacasath First Nation. “Some of our members now also use big leaf maple syrup to glaze fish and meat before smoking them with maple wood. Kleekhoot Gold provided training and employment opportunities for our young people during the early years of operation. It also brings our members back into the forests with a renewed sense that there is more to the forest than just logging opportunities. We are very proud of the product made here and our members who work so hard to produce it for everyone.

Osborne said: “Kleekhoot Gold is a great example of how innovative forest management can help strengthen communities. The people of the Alberni Valley are so proud of locally grown foods, and Big Leaf Maple Syrup is a sweet addition to our local food landscape.

Since its inception in 2015, Hupacasath First Nation has invested over $300,000 in Kleekhoot Gold to bring this new, high-value product to market. Kleekhoot Gold is one of many independent business ventures in the Hupacasath First Nation.

Fast facts:

  • First Nations in BC are increasingly involved in forestry activities that provide economic opportunity and community sustainability.
  • The Indigenous Forest Bioeconomy Program targets funding to help Indigenous partners lead the development of a forest bioeconomy.
  • Since 2019, the program has completed 41 projects with 24 Indigenous communities and organizations across the province, including projects such as:
    • essential oils extracted from conifer needles;
    • a new engineered wood product made from dead wood degraded by fires and beetle destruction;
    • textiles made from bark; and
    • waste wood fiber insulation.
  • Funding for the program in 2021-22 was approximately $1,126,000.
  • The program is expanded in 2022 with an additional $3.9 million over three years for an accelerator component that will accelerate the commercialization of projects.