By Jim Cooperman
The community forest program began in British Columbia in 1998, when the government amended the Forest Act to allow for long-term community forest tenures.
Beginning with a few pilot tenures, the program expanded in 2004 to allow for long-term agreements and again in 2009, so that communities could obtain 25-year, renewable licenses.
Currently, there are 58 community forests and five more with invitations to apply.
There are many advantages to community forests, including revenues going to support community projects, forest planning that respects community values, timber available for local industries and local job creation. So far, there are just two community forests in the Shuswap, the 7,405-hectare Monashee Community Forest near Lumby and the small, 1,081-hectare Cherryville Community Forest near Cherryville.
The Village of Lumby and the Splatsin manage the Monashee Community Forest jointly, with annual revenues of between $60,000 and $100,000 split 50-50. The land base, which was once part of Tolko’s tenure, is located between Lumby and Silver Star. One of the advantages of the tenure is that managers can vary logging rates from the 21,595 annual allowable cut to account for low log prices or to deal with insect infestations.
The overall goal for the Monashee Community Forest is sustainability, so that they never run out of timber. To help achieve this goal, all roads and landings are rehabilitated and tree planting includes fertilizer treatments to improve growth rates. Logging activities are planned to ensure buffers are maintained around the extensive networks of mountain bike, motorbike and horse trails. As well, planning respects the need to protect archaeological sites and berry picking areas.
While revenues from the community forest will never replace the income generated from the former sawmills that at one time were the major economic driver for Lumby, the income does help the village support many initiatives. Lumby mayor and community forest board member, Kevin Acton explains how the village does not use the revenue for operating funds, but rather uses it for extras, such as the community’s social wellness fund, water stewardship and the local museum.
In Cherryville, the community forest is managed by the Cherry Ridge Management Committee and revenue is allocated to pay for materials used for community projects. The committee began as a group dedicated to the protection of the hillside above the community and to resist clearcutting, they obtained salvage permits to selectively log dead trees.
These are uncertain times for forestry in the province, with 34 partial or complete mill closures, declining lumber prices and far fewer trees to log due to beetles, fires and decades of overcutting. Community forests are one way to lessen the impacts and, as Mayor Acton explained, to provide greater local benefits for local resources. Talks are underway to initiate more community forests in the Shuswap, near Enderby and in the North Shuswap. Hopefully, these discussions will bear fruit and more communities will benefit from our local forests.