Community forests are commonly referred to as a “small tenure”, but their hopes and aspirations are anything but small.
Community forests were created to support local livelihoods and to promote innovation and economic diversification. They also encourage communication and the development of relationships within communities and with First Nations. They provide opportunities for local training and skills development.
Forest companies will change owners or come and go; however, community forests and the communities that manage them are here to stay. With area-based, long-term tenures, incentives are created for long-term investment in the land.
It is in the interest of these communities to manage their local forests for a range of values, including local jobs, wildfire mitigation and community interface planning, recreation infrastructure and small scale, local bioenergy. There are five community forests in the B.C. Southern Interior riding – Kaslo, Harrop-Procter, West Boundary, Keremeos, and Princeton – and the accounts of benefits derived from their operations are growing steadily.
For example, Kaslo contributed funds to build the new clubhouse at the Kaslo Golf Club, a timber-framed structure that also employed a local company for design and construction. Harrop-Procter is the first community forest with Forest Stewardship Council Certification. With its low annual allowable harvest and a focus on protection of watershed values, it has established a small mill to turn its round trees into dimensional lumber products.
While community forestry holds great potential for B.C. communities, the economic and ecological changes facing the forest sector as a whole present significant challenges. The British Columbia Community Forest Association (BCCFA) is working to help its members manage for future success.
At the recent BCCFA conference in Kaslo, delegates heard about the latest research on how to approach long-term forest management in the context of climate change.
They learned about the importance of understanding and monitoring the patterns and impacts of local change and they were introduced to some practical tools to analyze their vulnerabilities and risk. The new insights and tools will assist community forest managers to adapt their decision making to future conditions.
Community forests are seeking to diversify their operations and to capture more value for the wood harvested. WoodSourceBC.com is a new BCCFA initiative, which helps to attract a wide group of log buyers and value added manufacturers to the community forest product and to partnership opportunities.
Value added manufacturing can provide as much as 10 times the jobs for each cubic metre of wood as can a primary breakdown facility. The higher value product can also provide for an alternative log market for community forests and other small tenures.
Value added is a good deal for communities because it can contribute to new jobs, youth retention, economic diversification and community stability.
For more information on community forests, visit www.bccfa.ca.
– Alex Atamanenko is MP for the B.C. Southern Interior