They are still in the early stages, but members of the Tête-Jaune Community Forest Society are gathering support to create their own community forest.
The Society has been meeting regularly for more than a year to discuss how they would prefer to see local forests managed. They have drafted a proposal that would let them harvest 15,000 cubic metres annually from a swath of forest surrounding Tête-Jaune Cache, a community of some 200 people north of Valemount.
Society secretary Ainslie Jackman says local control of logging practises is the society’s biggest priority. She says in the past residents have felt powerless in the face of the large amount of harvesting by outside companies, especially due to the mountain pine beetle infestation.
“So much was happening so quickly, residents thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. Is there nothing I can do to have some input?’ A community forest is an effective way of having your input recognized at a local level.”
The forest would be located between the Dunster and Valemount community forests, land currently within the traditional operating areas of Carrier Lumber Ltd. and Hauer Brothers Lumber Ltd.
Jackman says they’ll be asking for some of Hauer Bros. and Carrier’s operating area – meaning the area where those companies can log would be restricted, although their annual allowable cuts remain the same.
Bill Kordyban, president of Carrier Lumber Ltd., says they are open to discussing the changes with the Society. He says Carrier has worked with many community forests and has for example bought wood from the McBride Community Forest.
“If they require a license, by all means we’d be delighted to talk with them,” he says.
He says he would support the proposal if it means another source of fibre for Carrier, but says he is wary of giving up land where the company is licensed to log.
“If it’s a zero sum game where if we have the rights to a certain area and they are applying for an area that would remove it from our rights, then I would think we might have an issue with that.”
Society president Bob Gray says it is still premature, but they have discussed a fibre flow agreement with the local sawmill belonging to Hauer Bros. This type of agreement typically would provide the mill with an increased annual volume to harvest in exchange for monetary compensation ($/m3) and assistance with the application process and the management of a community forest.
Hauer Bros. have an annual allowable cut of only 11,372 cubic metres of timber which provides less than half of the mill’s requirements. Jackman, who works for Hauer Bros., says they would be guaranteed more timber volume through a Tête-Jaune Community Forest.
“The ministry knows Hauer is perennially short of volume,” she says. A fibre flow agreement would be a win-win situation for the mill and for the society, she says, as more wood would be processed in the Valley and it would help make Hauer’s employees’ jobs more secure.
If the society obtains the 25-year license for their desired land, Gray says the Society could encourage logging practises that complement outdoor activities. He says their proximity to Mount Robson Provincial Park is an incentive to harvest in a way that enhances local recreation.
They will be meeting soon with members the Simpcw First Nation, as that group as also applied for a community forest in the Tete-Jaune area.