By Korie Marshall

The pursuit of boundary and volume expansion is still top of the list of Valemount Community Forest’s objectives for 2014, but the silviculture program was a big highlight of this year’s Annual General Meeting. Silviculture is the practice of maintaining healthy forests to meet diverse needs and values.

Valemount Community Forest currently has $1.3 million set aside for silviculture, according to the report from manager Craig Pryor, up from $620,000 in last year’s annual report. The company’s financial policy is to save enough money from each block harvested to cover projected silviculture requirements through to the free-growing stage. Four hundred thousand seedlings are scheduled for planting this season, with another 500,000 ordered for next year. Approximately 1.6 million seedlings were planted between 2010 and 2012, and surveys will soon be due to ensure plantings and natural regeneration at acceptable density.

“There have been no surveys yet because we are so new,” explained Pryor, “but it is time now.” Staff is busy inputting data to the new Phoenix/Ecora database system which will help keep track of planting and survey needs. They hope to have the system up to date by the end of April.

Pryor says they are getting close to where some natural regeneration areas will need to be fill-planted, and there are three local tree-planting companies that can handle that work. Also in some blocks, aspen and brush will have to be dealt with before it starts negatively impacting plantation areas, possibly as early as this summer, which means brushing work. Pryor estimates the brushing will create employment for a 5-10 person crew for a month or so, and there is at least one local brushing contractor who works in the valley.

The Community Grant Writer wrote $210,000 in grant applications in 2013, says the report, with $44,000 approved for funding for local non-profit groups.

Janey Weeks recently stepped down from the Grant Writer position but is staying on as Assistant Administrator in more of a full-time role. The Village of Valemount will house the new Grant Writer position. (The Village has not yet announced the successful candidate; funding is from Northern Development Initiative Trust.)

Another of VCF’s objectives for 2014 is to continue improving 5 Mile Road. The road has been realigned at the top, removing some switchbacks, Pryor explained at the meeting, with the goal of making the road more accessible to cars. He continues to discuss work with the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association, like graveling, ditching and parking areas, pending funding, and there are a few blocks VCF will log this spring to help pay for the work on the road. Pryor says he is continues to work with YORA to coordinate the logging work with their plans for recreation in the area.

Other highlights listed were: over 100,000 cubic meters of volume harvested in 2013 by five local contractors; over $19 million paid in contract wages to local contractors since 2009; second year for awarding local grants and high school bursary; united comments with McBride Community Forest, Carrier Lumber and the Villages submitted to the provincial government on the Robson Valley Timber Supply Review; and VCF’s first cable logging is starting now – Schapansky Logging out of McBride is working a block near the Upper Canoe River, on the west side of Highway 5.

Other objectives for 2014 are working with First Nations, working with non-profit groups on projects like YORA’s proposed mountain bike park and the Westridge Family Loop trail, supporting local mills and businesses and creating stable employment in the valley.

Cynthia Piper was re-elected President, with Gordon Carson again Vice-President and Anne Yanciw Secretary/Treasurer. Piper noted the other board members have served their first of a two-year term but says they are looking for additional board members, including a First Nations member. Anyone interested is asked to contact the board or send an expression of interest to [email protected] or to Box 1017.