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OUR HOMETOWN: Gord Chipman has deep roots in Cariboo forestry

The professional forester continues to grow as he steps into new role
Gord Chipman is taking on an ambitious new role, but has spent a lifetime immersed in the forests of the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

For twelve years, Gord Chipman worked hard to work himself out of a job. He is now ready to step into a new one as the general manager for the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations.

Chipman passed the torch of forest manager at Alkali Resource Management Ltd. (AMR) earlier this year to Francis Johnson Jr.

ARM was established in 2001 to manage forest licences for Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake) and when Chipman started the job in 2010, he knew the plan. The goal had been clearly stated when he was hired: to build capacity within the community so community members could take over and run the organization.

“They’re my people,” he said simply, speaking of some of the board members of Alkali Resource Management Ltd. (ARM) who helped mentor him in his lead role with ARM from 2010 to 2022.

The respect he carries for the board members he worked with all those years, many of whom he now calls friends, speaks to his character and the passion he has for what he does as a forester.

“We have to manage our lands,” emphasized Chipman, noting First Nations managed the land for thousands of years.

“People need to recognize that we’re part of the land, the land is part of us.”

He is excited to bring a more proactive approach to woodlot management to include higher levels of silviculture work and increase the reduction of wildfire risk.

Having just started his new role in October, Chipman is being transitioned into the role by Brian McNaughton, who has been in the position for 21 years.

With the general manager being the one point of contact with the 843 woodlots in the province, he has a lot to get up to speed on, but he’s in the right place for it, as the Cariboo is a central location in the province.

There are 17 woodlot associations run by volunteers he will help support. Over 600,000 hectares in the province are designated woodlots.

“I truly believe that woodlots have a good story, I see that as my role, to tell the good story,” said Chipman.

It seems natural Chipman would grow into a life in forestry. Born in Port Alberni to a father who was a logger, and grandson to loggers on both sides, Chipman’s family relocated to the Chilcotin.

He then spent a lot of his childhood growing up in Puntzi Mountain, after the family had settled on Piper Lake.

“I was like Huck Finn,” said Chipman. “Puntzi was a great place to grow up as a kid.”

He attended the school at Puntzi, which ended at Grade 9, so he moved into the dormitory in Williams Lake to finish his high school.

After high school he continued his education in Nanaimo and finished a diploma there, working for a few years afterwards.

He then returned to finish a degree at UBC. By 1995, he was a professional forester.

“I had an amazing year there in ‘93 in Vancouver,” recalled Chipman, confessing how the city of Vancouver was not his thing, so he wanted to keep his time there short.

Chipman had taken his electives at Cariboo College in Kamloops (now Thompson Rivers University) and needed 17 courses to graduate. He managed to take nine courses in the first semester and eight in the second, obtaining special permission to be able to take such a heavy course load.

“That sort of set me up for my career, because ever since then I’ve been doing a lot.”

He said the experience was integral to his learning to network to get things done.

“Over the years I’ve relied a lot on relationships and working with other people,” he explained. He also met his wife Georgina at UBC, whose family also has a history in forestry. Their eldest son Stephen is now a seventh generation forester-in-training.

After working for 17 years with major forest industry companies, Gord Chipman saw the industry transform, with nine different positions over those 17.

“I never moved once, the jobs just kept changing.”

This ability to adapt in a dynamic industry suits Chipman just fine.

“I went through so many restructurings and reorganizations, and I loved it because it meant change,” he said. “Change is fun.”

With those words of wisdom and optimism, Chipman is well-situated to continue to grow right along with the trees he has spent his life managing.

Read more: Alkali Resource Management recipient of 2020 Indigenous Business Award

Read more: PHOTOS: Indigenous Cariboo horse roundup a time-honoured tradition

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