An audit of the McBride Community Forest in the Robson Valley has found several instances of non-compliance with provincial forestry legislation, according to a Forest Practices Board report released Sept. 24.

The findings include failing to show road locations on site plan maps, in one instance leading to a poorly constructed road that caused environmental harm. In addition, five access roads were upgraded and used without authorization; the status of cutblocks was not reported to government when required; and accurate silviculture information was not maintained by the community forest.

“Each of these findings has potential implications for the overall sound management of forest resources, and collectively they raise serious questions about the community forest corporation’s diligence and attention to detail,” said Forest Practices Board chair Al Gorley.

“In our opinion, the management of the McBride Community Forest is not up to the standard required by provincial forestry legislation and expected by the public, nor is it reflective of the generally good management of other community forests we have audited in the past.”

In a prepared statement, the McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) says it has already implemented changes to address issues outlined in the audit report.

MCFC Board Chair Rick Thompson said in a prepared statement that “The majority of issues noted in the FPB report are administrative in nature and we’ve already undertaken positive changes to address these. We’re now using the latest GPS mapping technology and reporting systems to deliver relevant information to the Ministry of Forests and other agencies. All of our planning, harvesting and silviculture reporting responsibilities are current.”

“MCFC staff will provide greater oversight and supervision to all its operations in future.”

The FPB report also notes an access road was built close to Clyde Creek which was not planned. Thompson says “MCFC regrets the road was constructed in an area where it was not planned to be built. MCFC was contacted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) who determined there was no damage to salmon habitat in Clyde Creek due to construction of the road and approved MCFC’s plans to rehabilitate the site.

He says MCFC has planted seedlings and undertaken other mitigation work to return the temporary road to a forest area and ensure that no damage occurs to Clyde Creek in the future.

Areas of “significant non-compliance”
1.Operational planning: road locations not on site plan maps.
2. Road construction: one poorly built road; unauthorized use of roads.
3. Silviculture: lack of reporting to government.

source: FPB audit report click here

The audit examined the activities of McBride Community Forest Corporation on community forest agreement K1H in the Prince George District from Sept. 2010 to Sept. 2012. The McBride community forest was randomly selected for audit, along with the Valemount Community Forest, which received a clean audit report last December. The audits looked at all the community forest’s harvesting, roads, silviculture, protection activities and associated planning done during those dates and assessed them for compliance with the Forest and Range Practices Act, the Wildfire Act, and related regulations.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices. It reports its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board audits forest and range practices on public lands and appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

The audit team, composed of professionals and technical experts, first determines whether forest practices comply with legislated requirements. For those practices considered to not be in compliance, the audit team then evaluates the significance of the non-compliance, based on a number of criteria, including the magnitude of the event, the frequency of its occurrence and the severity of the consequences.

There are four levels of compliance – compliance, not-significant non-compliance, significant non-compliance and significant breach. In the McBride audit, the Board found four cases of significant non-compliance and one additional area requiring improvement.

The board wrote in the audit that “although the MCFC reports that it is taking measures to rectify areas of non-compliance, the Board believes that MCFC will need to pay greater on-going attention to compliance with forest practices requirements if its future operations are to warrant public confidence.”

The McBride Community Forest holds an area-based tenure with exclusive right to harvest 50,000 cubic metres of timber annually from the 60,000-hectare land base.

The community forest is wholly owned by the Corporation of the Village of McBride. In a prepared statement, McBride Mayor Mike Frazier credited the community forest with supporting the local forest industry, creating jobs and providing benefits to the community.

“Our community forest has helped save our local forest industry,” he is quoted. “It provides timber to keep local forest products mills operating. It provides jobs for loggers, truck drivers and silviculture workers.”

He says the community forest has provided much needed funding for projects like the McBride Community Hall, seniors housing, upgrades to the Elks Hall and Legion, and the lagoon expansion project. The community forest also contributes to our Economic Development office which is tasked with attracting new investment which will bring new jobs.

“Our community does not have a large tax-base like other communities in BC so our community forest is absolutely vital to our sustainability and future growth,” Frasier’s statement said.

Thompson is quoted in the same prepared statement saying, “We’ve experienced some mistakes since we began operations a decade ago but we’ve learned from our mistakes and we get better as we go.”

He says they invite people in the area to contact them if they have questions about the report or what they have done to address the concerns.

“We plan to communicate more frequently with people in McBride and the Robson Valley about our community forest,” Thompson says. “There are a lot of positive things MCFC is involved with that people are not aware of.”

He says MCFC is one of the partners in a study being conducted by the University of Northern BC aimed at trying to save the whitebark pine, the first conifer to be declared as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. UNBC researchers planted whitebark pine seedlings with MCFC support near McBride Peak in 2012 and these will be studied over coming years to determine how best to ensure survival of this important species.

You can read the MCFC’s official response to the FPB findings here.

Last winter, in a separate incident, McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) and McBride logging contractor Crazy Horse Logging Ltd. reached an agreement with community representatives to make up for harming salmon spawning habitat during logging operations in the winter of 2011/2012. The agreement was part of a restorative justice model.

The reparation agreement included hosting and covering all costs associated with putting on a one-day workshop for local loggers and layout crews regarding fish/forestry interactions; hosting and covering all the costs associated with putting on a similar one-day workshop for the youth of McBride; and contributing $5,000 towards the production of a scope of work report with regards to what would be required to rehabilitate Dominion Creek.

MCFC has been in operation for 10 years. It is overseen by a Board of Directors with two staff members and is supported by a number of contractors. According to a news release from the community forest, since its inception, MCFC has supported dozens of jobs, created over $30 million in economic activity and provided $2.5 million directly to the community through dividend payments to the Village of McBride.

By: Laura Keil