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Prince George History

Includes materials on the local history of Prince George in the Northern BC Archives

What is Environmental History?

Environmental historians study the mutual relationships humans have with nature. These relationships and broadly covered by three different themes:

  • Influence of environmental factors on human history, that is natural factors that were not caused by human activity but greatly impacted human activity. These factors would include weather events, climate, plant and animal populations and distribution, sea level changes, volcanic activity and earthquakes, and diseases.
  • Environmental changes caused by human activity and the inevitable effects these changes have on human societies. These environmental changes include agriculture, growth and development of human settlements, natural resource industries, etc. As we continue to control nature to fit our needs, this control often affects the wider environment, which in turn causes negative effects to us in the form of pollution, food shortages, deforestation, species extinction, erosion, radioactive fallout, and climate change.
  • Our changing perception of the environment and how these opinion have affected our actions towards the environment.

Source: Hughes, J.D. (2016). What is environmental history?. Malden, MA: Polity.

The materials in the Northern BC Archives that best illustrate the Environmental History of Prince George are listed below. This is not an exhaustive list but rather a few key collections.

Images: (top) 2012. - Forest; (bottom) 2012. - Prince George - Sawmill

Nature's Influence: Island Cache

Photograph depicts lane in front of tent buildings flooded with water.Island Cache Recovery Project Collection - 2003.11 (1998-2000): Collection consists of material resulting from Dr. Mike Evan's Island Cache Recovery Project Collection, which includes oral history interviews of former Island Cache (Cottonwood Island) residents on recording media (cassette and VHS) as well as transcripts of the oral histories. Also includes administrative records for the project and photocopies of background research material used for the project, such as Prince George city records, newspaper clippings, photographs, and correspondence. The series on Oral History Interviews - 2003.11.1 consists of the 46 oral histories conducted by the Island Cache Recovery Project. A file exists for each participant in the research project, which includes the original recorded oral history on cassette tape and/or VHS, consent forms for use of the oral history, a written transcript for the oral history, and a digital version of the written transcript.

Restrictions on access: Some restrictions apply. Contact the archives for details.

Image: 2009.5.3.97 - Flooded Railway Camp

Changing Our Environment: Forestry

Pulpmill - General - Pulp Mill aerialFonds 2001.26 - Northwood Pulp and Timber Ltd. fonds

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Access >2100 Digitized Photographs


Northwood Pulp was established in 1961 when Canadian corporation, Noranda Mines Limited, diversified into the British Columbia forest industry. Partnering with the Mead Corporation of Dayton, Ohio, Noranda Mines Ltd. purchased the Sinclair and Upper Fraser Sawmills, both east of Prince George. After the purchase of these two sawmills, as well as the proliferation of others, there became an excess of waste wood products generated by milling in the central interior of British Columbia. To meet this specific waste reduction need, and to expand into a new wood fibre market, the Mead Corporation and Noranda Mines built Northwood Pulp Mill in 1964-1965. Northwood Pulp Mill was, and still is, a processing plant dedicated to the conversion of waste wood chips to pulp and paper products.

In 1980-1981 an expansion was added to the mill which effectively doubled Northwood's capacity for the making of pulp kraft paper from waste wood chips.

In 1999, the Canadian Forest Products (a.k.a. Canfor) acquired all of the shares of Northwood Inc.; a purchase which included the Northwood Pulp Mill, Prince George Sawmill, North Central Plywoods, Rustad, Houston and Upper Fraser operations, the Kyahwood Forest Products joint venture and J.D. Little Forest Centre. This acquisition gave Canfor the unique designation of being Canada's largest producer of softwood lumber and kraft market pulp.

In February 2006 Canfor effectively separated its pulp business from its wood products business; a strategic move which resulted in the transfer of its northern softwood kraft pulp and paper business, including its Northwood Pulp Mill, Intercontinental Pulp Mill and Prince George Pulp and Paper Mill, together with associated management and employees (now referred to as the “Pulp Income Trust”) to an indirectly owned limited partnership known as the “Canfor Pulp Limited Partnership”.


  • Woods Division - Logs/Log Decks - Cedar recovery test decks at Shelley18,380 photographs including prints, negatives, and slides. These illustrate a wide variety of Northwood Pulp & Timber Ltd. operations and events, including but not limited to: employee service awards; N.R.A. (Northwood Recreation Association) activities; Northwood’s 25-year Anniversary celebrations held at Houston, Upper Fraser, North Central Plywood, Shelley, and Prince George Sawmills, as well as at the Northwood Pulp & Timber mill; silviculture and forest harvesting practices; sawmill and pulp mill general operations; logging camps; the building of logging roads and bridges; and Northwood’s own unique heavy equipment, such as the locomotives, the snowplow and the refurbished 1942 fire engine. Also included in this photographic collection are images documenting Northwood Pulp & Timber’s original construction (1964-65), and subsequent expansion (1980 – 1981); aerial perspectives; machinery details; employees at work, or receiving awards and certifications; corporate portraiture; office "spirit" events; corporate outreach activities such as open houses or public displays and demonstrations; and images depicting Northwood’s relationship with the community, such as donations of special reading equipment for the visually impaired, donations of food to the Salvation Army food bank, and corporate financial support for the University of Northern British Columbia.
  • 35cm of sound and moving images
    • 3 - 16mm color films
    • 3 mini DVs
    • 6 CDs
    • 19 VHS video cassettes
  • 1.26m of textual records

Restrictions on access: Some restrictions apply, contact an archivist for details.


  • 2001.26.1.38 - Pulpmill - General - Pulp Mill aerial
  • 2001.26.1.1519 - Woods Division - Logs/Log Decks - Cedar recovery test decks at Shelley

Series 2003.8.4 - Noranda Forestry Division

From the Adam Zimmerman fonds

Subseries 2003.8.4.01 - Northwood Mills

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Northwood Mills was Noranda's first foray into the forestry industry. Northwood Mills was resurrected from National Forest Products when it was purchased by Noranda in April 1961 (Zimmerman p. 33). National Forest Products was in receivership and had 6 sawmills in the Okanagan Valley (Summerland Box Company, Tulameen Forest Products, and the Osoyoos and Oliver mills) and in Prince George (Upper Fraser Mills and Sinclair Spruce Mills) (Zimmerman p. 31). The Prince George mills were larger and more successful, making Prince George the centre of Noranda's forest investment. Included in the purchase of National Forest Products was the harvesting quota for the sawmills and a 3 million acre pulp-harvesting area (pre-approved for a pulp mill) that had been created by the provincial forestry minister, Ray Williston (Zimmerman p. 31). Dick Porritt was named the first president and CEO of Northwood Mills (Zimmerman p. 34).

An agreement between Noranda Mines and the Mead Corporation dated April 24, 1964 provided for the formation of a new company called Northwood Pulp. The capital stock of this new company was divided evenly between Northwood Mills Ltd. and Canamead Inc. (later named Forest Kraft Company). Northwood Pulp purchased from Northwood Mills all the outstanding stock of two of Northwood Mills' wholly-owned subsidiaries: Upper Fraser and Sinclair Spruce Mills. Northwood Mills would provide knowledge and experience with respect to sawmills. Mead would provide knowledge and experience with respect to the engineering and design of pulpmills. Northwood Mills was Northwood Pulp's exclusive agent for soliciting and servicing sales of logs, lumber and other sawmill products globally.

At 1976, Northwood Mills continued to operate four sawmills in the Okanagan region of British Columbia with the capacity to produce approximately 200 million board feet of lumber per year, principally western white spruce. It had a building materials division which operated a lumber brokerage and wholesale building materials business through warehouses across Canada. Early in 1975, it acquired Airscrew-Weyroc, which was then renamed Northwood Panelboard Ltd., with a 145,000 tons per year particle board plant in Chatham, New Brunswick.

Between 1964 and 1985, Northwood Mills purchased holdings in other subsidiaries, including Fraser Inc., W.H. Miller Co Ltd., James Maclaren Industries, Lynn Stevedoring Co. Ltd., MacMillan Bloedel Ltd., McBride Lumber & Building Supplies Ltd., Northwood Properties, and Northwood Panelboard Ltd (Stats Can).

Northwood Mills' Sales Division marketed its own production as well as that for Northwood Pulp and Timber and other non-affiliated producers. Over 80% of the sales were to North America.


Subseries consists of 1 metre of records concerning Northwood Mills that were created or accumulated by Adam Zimmerman during his tenures as the company's President, Director, and Chairman. Includes administrative records, sales and marketing material, market research, competitor analysis, and records regarding sawmill operations and its building materials division.

Subseries 2003.8.4.02 - Northwood Pulp & Timber

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Subseries consists of 3 metres of administrative records concerning Northwood Pulp and it's renamed successors Northwood Pulp and Timber Ltd. (1972-1998) and Northwood Forest Industries Ltd. (1979-1998). These records were created or accumulated by Adam Zimmerman during his tenures as the company's President, Director, and Chairman. Includes administrative records, financial records, sales and marketing material, market research, competitor analysis, operational records, and information on the company's many acquisitions and divestitures. Also contains records regarding government liaison, environmental issues, labour relations, and its operations in Prince George at the Northwood Pulp Mill.

Changing Perceptions: Forest Research

"The Mark of Progress"

Created by the British Columbia Forest Service and first played for a live audience in 1959 in Prince George, BC.
Accession # 2016. from the Harry Coates fonds.

2007. - The Results of Stand Treatment in the White Spruce Alpine Fir Type of the Northern Interior of British ColumbiaAleza Lake Research Forest

​Aleza Lake Research Forest fonds - 2007.1


The ALRF Collection contains significant materials covering a wide range of topics related to forestry research and forest management practices in Central BC from the 1920s-1980s documenting BC’s earliest and longest-running experimental research forest in the province. By 1930, the Research Division was the most active throughout Canada. It includes:

  • administrative materials
  • unpublished scientific and technical reports
  • timber sale records
  • general forestry related reports
  • 200+ Photographs of the Experimental Station dating from its inception in 1924

Its most significant records include experimental plot files from 1928-1958 and sample plots from Hutton, Penny, and Foreman that record growth and mortality of white spruce balsam and soil types. 

After 38 years of operation, ALES was formally closed in 1963 but in the late 1980s, there was a push for the Research Forest to be re-opened because of its potential for forest management research and demonstration. In 1992, the Research Forest reopened and, as the renamed Aleza Lake Research Forest, in 2001 it became the fourth university research forest in British Columbia managed by the ALRF Society, with a partnership between UNBC, UBC, BC Ministry of Forests, and the BC Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management. Today, the central mandate of the Research Forest is to provide multidisciplinary programs focusing on partial cut harvest systems, biological diversity, climate change, and environmental monitoring in small forest tenures.

Image: 2007. - The Results of Stand Treatment in the White Spruce Alpine Fir Type of the Northern Interior of British Columbia

Aleza Lake Research Forest Society fonds

2006.18.6.14 - Ranger Station at Aleza Lake Experiment Forest2006.18 - Aleza Lake Research Forest Society fonds


The Aleza Lake Research Forest Society (ALRFS) records encompass material that was created or collected by the Society over its existence (2001-present). Records created by the ALRFS consist of administrative and operational records, as well as publications from the Society. Collected records include historical records relating to the Aleza Lake Experiment Forest gifted to the Society or its members. These include maps, photographs, reference material, and documents. Members and associates of the ALRFS also documented the history of the forest through the creation of oral history recordings and written histories such as John Revel's "Devil's Club, Black Flies, and Snowshoes".

The fonds includes a significant amount of reproduced archival material about Aleza Lake from other institutions, such as BC Archives, the Canadian Forest Service, and the BC Forest Service. Many of these reproductions were created as part of the 2006 ALRFS Natural Resources History Internship in an effort to compile the history of the research forest.

Also included are cartographic and photographic materials that depict the Aleza Lake Research Forest and surrounding areas.

Physical description:

  • 0.63 m of textual records
  • 23 photographs
  • 1 video cassette
  • 4 audio cassettes
  • approx. 80 maps

Restrictions on access: Some restrictions may apply - contact an archivist at

Image: 2006.18.6.14 - Ranger Station at Aleza Lake Experiment Forest

McGregor Model Forest Association fonds

2007.11 - McGregor Model Forest Association fonds


The McGregor Model Forest Association (MMFA) was established in 1992 by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Forest Service’s Model Forest Program which was established across the country to examine and test principals of sustainable forest management. The MMFA operated successfully for over 15 years to support research, development of integrated forest management models, forest education and facilitation of collaborative decision-making. The Association’s approximately 50 members included communities, First Nations, industry, government and non-government representatives, as well as individual scientists and practitioners. The MMFA was an active participant in the Canadian and International Model Forest Networks, and also carried out projects in Russia on behalf of the Canadian International Development Agency. The Model Forest Program concluded in 2007.


Fonds consists of the McGregor Model Forest records documenting the operational history of the model forest from 1992 through 2007. These records document the various functions of the McGregor Model Forest reflected in the four series:

  1. Projects and Research consisting of reports, proposals, and project and research materials ranging from 1994 to 2006
  2. McGregor Model Forest Association Administration records largely consisting of Board of Directors Meeting Minutes from 1993 - 1997; work plans from 1994 - 1997, 2002 - 2003; annual reports from 1995 - 2006; Technical Steering Committee Meeting Minutes from 1993 - 1997
  3. Publications by the McGregor Model Forest Association, the Canadian Model Forest Network, Natural Resources Canada, or other forest research organizations
  4. Promotional Materials including materials from outreach events such as posters, presentation slides, and ephemera.

Physical description: 

  • 1.3 m textual records
  • 2 CD-ROMs
  • 1 object: large magnet
  • 25 posters

Restrictions on access: Some restrictions apply. Contact archivist for details.