Wells Gray Community Forest holds annual general meeting

"Up until three years ago I didn't give much thought to the community forest ... until we got laid off. Then it was a great blessing for us."

“Up until three years ago I didn’t give much thought to the community forest … until we got laid off. Then it was a great blessing for us.”

That was the testimony given by local logging contractor Dale Miller during Wells Gray Country Community Forest Corporation’s annual general meeting on April 14.

Logging for the community forest allowed him to keep employed 11 people after Weyerhaeuser closed down its local wood harvest operations, said Miller. All of those employed live in this area, he added.

“The community forest was able to keep marketing wood in the worst market I’ve ever seen,” the local logger said. “I’d like to thank you on behalf of my crew.”

Miller’s contract brought in an estimated $1.1 million into the local economy and was just one highlight brought forward during the agm.

Clearwater councilor Ken Kjenstad thanked the community forest for contributing $30,000 towards the completion of Rotary Sports Park. The contribution was timely and allowed the municipality to move forward in a manner that it might not have otherwise been able to.

A contribution of $10,000 helped Clearwater Secondary School obtain a CNC (computer numeric controlled) router for its woodworking shop, said principal Alan Stel. The new machine, plus a CNC plasma cutter obtained earlier, places the school at the cutting edge of technology, he said.

Governance has been an item of concern since before the community forest was incorporated. Recently WGCFC has set up a society that will hold the corporation’s shares plus control how the corporation’s profits are distributed.

The society will have seven trustees, said corporation treasurer Richard Christianson.

Two will be from the community forest, two from the community forest’s advisory committee, and one other area resident. One trustee will represent District of Clearwater and one will represent Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Funds disbursed through the society will vary annually, based on WGCFC profits. Grant applications will be accepted two times a year – in September and March. The target would be to distribute $1.50 per cubic meter harvested.

The community forest presently has an annual allowable cut of 20,000 cubic meters, said manager George Brcko. This has been temporarily uplifted to 35,000 cubic meters for pine salvage.

The forest stewardship plan attempts to meet 12 objectives, Brcko said. These include soil management and conservation, general water resources, visual sensitive areas and so on.

Local partnerships include one with Wells Gray Outdoor Club. The club’s Candle Creek cross-country ski trails are within the community forest’s tenure area and the two organizations plan to work together on trail development.

Wells Gray Community Forest came into existence with a large debt, said Brcko. That made it necessary to hire Woodco Management Ltd. of Salmon Arm to develop plans and conduct harvesting activities. This contract is anticipated to be completed next October and the community forest is taking over control of its own planning and harvesting.

A wood development committee is focusing on developing standing timber for future markets. A wood expansion committee is looking at ways to increase the community forest’s annual allowable cut.

A conference held last year on non-timber forest products created a lot of interest and led to the setting up of a NTFP committee, reported community forest chair Ted Richardson.

Richardson noted that non-timber forest products have special importance to Simpcw First Nations.

 

“We have to work with them on this,” he said.