In the early 1950's there were over 600 small sawmills manufacturing rough cut lumber in the bush in the Prince George Forest District. The lumber was subsequently shipped to planer mills located in Prince George. Most of these lumber companies operated with only a few employees and no professional forestry staff to assist them in their dealings with the Provincial Forest Service.
Recognizing this need through contact with many local lumber men was Larry deGrace, a professional forester and then manager of the Aleza Lake Experimental Station. In late 1951, Larry moved to Prince George, met and partnered with forest engineer Bob Darnell, and established Industrial Forestry Service in 1952. The partnership became known almost immediately as "IFS".
The early days at IFS were focused on cruising, engineering and general forestry. Larry deGrace however recognized early on that less than 25 percent of the fibre in the forest was being converted into lumber. As a spokesman advocating for improvements in fibre utilization, his various endeavors through the 1950's contributed to the establishment of the first pulp mill in Prince George in 1966.
IFS was incorporated in 1954, and in 1955 added two key staff to its growing roster of employees - Harry Gairns, a graduate forest engineer and Al Nevison, a draftsman from the B.C. Forest Service.
Harry assumed the role of Vice President in 1959 and subsequently replaced Larry deGrace as President in 1969. He led the company until his retirement in 1992. Al Nevison assumed the role of office manager in 1959 and held this position for 46 years, until his retirement in 2004.
Forestry consulting work, which included silviculture, cruising, inventory, engineering, planning and mapping, has been the mainstay of the company since inception. However, several noteworthy historical initiatives were:
- In 1958, IFS was awarded a special commercial aircraft licence granting the company rights to aerial photography and aerial forest reconnaissance.
- Through the 1950's and early 1960's IFS advanced the rationale supporting increased fibre utilization that subsequently lead to the development of pulp mills in Prince George in the mid 1960's.
- The mid to late 1960's included forestry work for BC Hydro on the proposed Williston Reservoir.
- In the 1970's the Province's need for accurate contour mapping led IFS to form Douglas Photogrammetric Inc. and eventually combined with other BC mapping companies to form the Digital Mapping Group Ltd.
- In 1979 a computer system was purchased - a Digital Equipment Corporation VAX 11-780 that was the largest computer installation in the interior of the Province.
- In 1980 the Ness Lake seedling nursery was constructed, initially as a transplant operation replanting seedlings started at government nurseries located in southern BC. The nursery has since grown to approximately 48,000 square metres of greenhouse space capable of growing 25 million seedlings.
- Through the years, other subsidiary companies have included: Industrial Reproductions Ltd., Industrial Photographics Ltd., Interior Aerial Surveys, Spatial Mapping Ltd., and Security Web Solutions Ltd.
IFS's main office has been based in the heart of Prince George since 1952. Since 1964, it has been located in the Forest Industries Building located at 1595 Fifth Avenue. Satellite offices were established in Dawson Creek in 2001 and Vancouver in 2011.