By Keith McNeill
Wells Gray Community Forest has distributed a total of $2.2 million to projects in Clearwater and Wells Gray Country since its inception in 2006.
That’s according to a report released during the community forest’s annual public meeting held Thursday evening, April 26.
“Things are working for the community forest. It’s pretty exciting what we’ve done,” said general manager George Brcko.
The figure includes about $1 million given out as regular grants (for example, $12,000 to Yellowhead Community Services for an outdoor stage and $9,000 for a laser engraver and 3-D printer for Clearwater Secondary School), and $1.2 million in large grants (for example, $300,000 to District of Clearwater for the bio-energy heating unit being installed at the Sportsplex).
Market prices and demand for logs from local mills was very strong last year, reported Brcko.
Last year the community forest harvested 34,000 cubic metres of wood, about 10 per cent above its annual allowable cut. This was to take advantage of the high market prices, he said.
They also harvested in areas that otherwise would not be so economically attractive.
Avoiding “high grading” by harvesting the full species profile and site profile is a priority, Brcko said.
Logging was done by local contractors Dale Miller Logging Ltd. and Wadlegger Logging and Construction.
Steep slope logging procedures were used on some sites.
Harvesting in the Candle Creek ski trails network during the fall of 2017 required special attention to public safety.
Last summer’s Dunn Lake wildfire came right up to the community forest boundary but did not go any farther.
“The fire came right to our doorstep in East Blackpool. We were lucky,” said Brcko.
Heat stress caused the loss of 70-80 per cent of recently planted trees in some blocks. Those areas will need to be re-assessed and possibly re-planted.
WGCF planted about 200,000 seedlings last year. Of these, 52 per cent were Douglas fir, 33 per cent lodgepole pine and 15 per cent spruce. The planting was done by locally-based MacRiver Contracting.
Small “teabags” of fertilizer were left with the seedlings in some locations.
There was also some fertilization done using a helicopter.
Managing for climate change and extreme weather events is a concern.
New climate-based stocking standards are coming online soon, said Brcko.
He felt the community forest has been doing a good job replacing small culverts with larger ones to help deal with sudden downpours.
B.C.’s Forest and Range Practices Act does not include planning to protect communities from wildfires as an objective, he noted.
“A few more summers like last year and it will be in there,” he predicted.
A new forest stewardship plan (FSP) is being developed for the community forest, said consultant Wes Bieber.
The Forest and Range Practices Act outlines 11 values, such as biodiversity, recreation, timber and soils, that the plan must account for, he said.
For example, because so much of the community forest is close to town and the highway, retaining visual quality gets a lot of focus.
Much can be done through controlling the shape and size of cut-blocks to make them less obvious.
Water quality is another priority, especially in the District of Clearwater watershed.
Changes to government standards brought in about two years ago mean they must slow the harvest in the upper watershed by about a half.