Craig Pryor says he’s looking for new challenges in this career move as he switches from the Valemount Community Forest to the McBride Community Forest. /RMG FILE PHOTO

By Laura Keil

After a decade at the helm of the Valemount Community Forest, Craig Pryor is leaving the organization to take a position at the McBride Community Forest.

Pryor – a McBride resident – says the new job will be closer to home, and provide him with new challenges.

“A lot of my family’s from McBride so it’d be nice to be able to work there and try to make (the McBride Community Forest) shine and maybe do some good things like we’ve done here.”

The move will also mean two hours less driving each day.

“I’ll be going from a 10-hour day over 10 years to an 8-hour day. I don’t want to do the math because that would be awful, but if you did the math over 10 years it’s a lot of driving.”

Pryor has been the face of an organization that has undergone substantial change over the last decade, and a lot of expansion.

“When I started, we were at I think 33,000 (cubic) metres and in a little office on Gorse Street,” he said. “It’s come a long way since then.”

Since that time, the forestry organization has split into two separate companies – the community forest and the Valemount Industrial Park, which focuses primarily on the tenants and land uses on industrial lands south of town.

He said he delayed the move so he could see through various projects, but now those have stability.
“Sometimes you just need a change,” he said.

As far as the approach he’ll be bringing to the McBride Community Forest, he says it’ll be similar to Valemount.

“I figure you just have to run a good show, be consistent, and fair, like I tried to be here,” he said. “You can’t make everyone happy. And you have to accept that you’re going to get beaten up once in a while.”
Pryor’s last day in Valemount was Oct. 17th. He is slated to start work at the McBride Community Forest on Oct. 23rd.

Board President Ainslee Jackman says the board greatly appreciates Pryor’s work.

“Basically he has brought us forward to be a very profitable company,” she said.

She says the community forest began with Shane Bressette in 2008 who led the community forest from very humble beginnings, and Craig took over in 2013.

“Now look where we are.”

In 2014, the Board of Directors and two staff worked on expansion and purchased the ‘old mill site’ (renamed the Valemount Industrial Park) with financial support from Northern Development Initiative Trust and Columbia Basin Trust. In 2016, the VCF purchased a Forest Licence from Carrier Lumber Ltd. and converted it into a Community Forest Agreement. The community forest says these acquisitions helped strengthen local employment and enhance opportunities to develop local manufacturing.

In January 2019, the VCF split into two limited partnerships – the Valemount Community Forest and the Valemount Industrial Park (VIP) – which separate the Village of Valemount from the business of forestry and industrial land management.

Jackman says there’s an indicators report each year submitted to the Province about how many jobs have been created by the community forest that show just how much they’ve grown over the years, and speak to the importance of community forests.

She says Pryor is an organized person who could take on all these new ventures – including the vision for the Industrial Park and attracting new lessees.

“In the 10 years he’s been here it’s been phenomenal in the changes and finances.”

Mayor Owen Torgerson says the Village of Valemount wishes to thank Pryor for his positive impact on the community forest “that will be felt for years to come.”

“His leadership and professionalism has also been instrumental in the formation and growth of our two municipal limited partnerships,” Torgerson said. “As he moves on to new adventures, the Village wishes Craig all the very best and hopes his future endeavours are as successful as they were in Valemount. We very much look forward to working with Craig, albeit through a regional lens for the betterment of the North Thompson-Robson Valley.”