The provincial government has recently increased the allowable timber harvests for two community forests and expansions could be on the horizon for Valemount and McBride.

The province has added 10,000 cubic metres per year and 10,000 hectares to Creston Community Forest’s license, bringing its total to 28,159 hectares and 25,000 cubic metres of allowable cut per year.

Babine Lake Community Forest’s agreement has been increased by 2,344 hectares, nearly 36 per cent, for a total of 8,939 hectares, increasing its allowable harvest to 10,088 cubic metres per year.

Brennan Clarke, spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations told the Goat that the Ministry has received an expansion application involving the Valemount Community Forest and the McBride Community Forest. The application names Carrier Lumber Ltd. as one of the parties.

“Due to the business-to-business nature of these talks, the Ministry is unable to provide specific details or a proposed timeline for a decision at this time,” said Clarke.

Carrier Lumber, according to its president Bill Kordyban, holds two licenses in the Robson Valley Timber Supply Area totalling about 250,000 cubic meters a year, which covers the majority of forest available for harvest.

At a presentation to the Valemount Chamber of Commerce this summer, Shane Bressette, then-manager of the Valemount Community Forest, was asked if the Village-owned forest company is trying to acquire some of Carrier’s cutting license in the Robson Valley. Bressette confirmed it is one of the options they have been looking into, but said he did not want to talk about it prematurely, noting the community is sensitive about promised opportunities that haven’t materialized. He cautioned that outside licensees like Carrier don’t have a big incentive to trade with community forests. Craig Pryor, the current manager of the Valemount Community Forest, told the Goat recently he did not want to comment on the possible purchase from Carrier.

Some residents have speculated on social media that the recent Forest Practices Board audit report critical of the McBride Community Forest might hurt McBride and Valemount’s chances of acquiring a bigger tenure.

Clarke, of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, told the Goat that Minister Steve Thomson has expressed concern about the recent Forest Practices Board audit.

“The minister has advised the parties that consideration of the expansion request involves the McBride Community Forest’s response to the Forest Practices Board recommendations.”

McBride Community Forest manager Marc von der Gonna told the Goat last week in an email that the community forest is not in a position to comment on the negotiations. The community forest has previously stated that they have resolved the forest practice issues brought up in the audit.

Bill Kordyban, President of Carrier Lumber Ltd., confirmed that Carrier Lumber has been approached by the community forests and told the Goat it is a unique situation.

“I am really not at liberty to speak too much about that,” Kordyban said, “Except that we’ve had numerous meetings, and we are searching out a way to work together for everybody’s benefit.

Kordyban said that over the last five years Carrier has harvested a little over a third of their allowable cut over that period. After the explosion of the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George in April 2012, more timber became available, which displaced some volume that might otherwise have come out of the Robson Valley, he said. He noted the wood in the Robson Valley is of higher quality, but is more expensive because of factors like the geography and the cost of transportation.

Jason Alexander has also been seeking more volume of a specific type of cedar for his company Cedar Valley Specialty Cuts, in Cedarside. Alexander told the Goat that he knows the cedar he needs is in the valley, but is part of Carrier’s tenure.

Chris Ortner, Manager of the Bridges II project funded by the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and a number of other organizations, said that he fully supports the initiative of the Valemount and McBride Community Forests. Bridges II is an ongoing project with the goal of increasing economic benefits by connecting and collaboration of forest tenure holders, First Nations, local communities and manufacturers.

“Expanding and strengthening community influence over local forests is the next logical step in the evolution of the forest sector in BC,” Ortner said.

By: Korie Marshall