Government makes changes that affect WG Community Forest

“There was no mechanism before to expand a community forest" - George Brcko, Wells Gray Community Forest manager

Amendments to statutes introduced recently could affect Wells Gray Community Forest in two areas, according to community forest manager George Brcko.

The first would be changes that would allow community forests to expand.

The second would allow BC Timber Sales to be given a reserved volume within new community forests.

“There was no mechanism before to expand a community forest,” Brcko explained. “We have an expansion application underway and this should help clear up how that might happen.”

Although most consider Wells Gray Community Forest to have been a success since it began operations in 2006, it is the consensus among many that its harvest volume is the bare minimum needed to be sustainable.

According to an article in a recent BC Community Forest Association newsletter, it was recently established that the Forest Act was missing a provision that allowed for the expansion of existing community forests.

The BCCFA wholeheartedly supports the amendment that would allow for the expansion of community forest licenses.

“We have worked with the MFLNRO (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) on the legislation, and will continue to collaborate on the drafting of the accompanying regulation,” the article says.

As for giving BC Timber Sales a volume reservation within the community forest, if it expands, “… no one understands what an agreement with BCTS would look like,” said  community forest manager Brcko.

BC Community Forest Association lobbied against BCTS having volume reservations but the provincial government wants to have a certain amount of timber sold through auction to help set the stumpage fees charged to the major forest companies.

In order to get that amount, it is necessary to go to all the tenure holders, including community forests.

The article in the BCCFA newsletter states that the proposed amendments that support BCTS are intended to provide the provincial government with additional tools to more effectively balance its stated objective for greater community and First Nations direct involvement in the forest sector.

The amendment’s purpose is to ensure that BCTS has access to a sufficient supply of timber to provide credible cost and price benchmarks for B.C.’s timber pricing system.

Changes made last year were intended to make it easier for BCTS to collaborate with the holders of community forest agreements and First Nations woodlands licences. The changes were designed to enable voluntary business to business relationships through timber disposition agreements.

“BCCFA viewed this as a positive change,” the article said. “However, we did not support the new discretionary authority granted to the Minister to include a volume reservation for BCTS within a new community forest. We saw this change as detrimental to the integrity of the community forest tenure.”

Public meeting Thursday evening

Wells Gray Community Forest will hold its annual public meeting Thursday evening, April 14, in Dutch Lake Community Centre at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.