Community forest (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Community forest (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Bringing a community forest to Golden

The Golden and Area A Community Forestry Team provides an update

  • Apr. 16, 2021 10:00 a.m.

After nearly 20 years, the Golden and Area A Community Forestry Team (GACFT) is trying to bring a community forest to the Golden area. The GACFT has provided an update on their progress.

On Jan. 13, the GACFT, along with a representative of the Shuswap Indian Band, attended an educational session hosted by Susan Mulkey of the BC Community Forestry Association.

Mulkey laid out how good governance in community forestry can be achieved and supported through thoughtful design of the legal entity formed to manage the forest. Mulkey then presented and facilitated discussion on legalon legal structures and arrangements that have been employed by other community forests in British Columbia.

Coun. Mark Thomas of the Shuswap Indian Band, attended the session and articulated the Shuswap’s desire to deepen the Band’s involvement in this initiative and to actively participate in working towards the goal of a community forest for the region.

“The Community and Area Community Forestry Team is pleased to evolve to have meaningful inclusion of regional First Nations in this initiative. These relationships are truly important to the success of this initiative and to move forward in reconciliation,” said Brian Gustafson of the GACFT.

Organizational governance determines “the processes, policies, and strategies used to guide behaviours, relationships, and decision making for an efficient and effective (community forest.)”

Many different legal structures are possible, ranging from non-profit associations through to cooperatives, corporations and partnerships. The optimal structure depends on the goals of the community forest and on the specific needs of the community organizations that are forming the community forest and will be overseeing its operations.

Governance and oversight are different from operational management. Governance sets the strategy and vision for the operators and holds them accountable, while the operators manage the actual day to day affairs of the forest. The operator is usually either a full timefull-time staff, or management is contracted out.

With funding fromform the CBT, ToG and Area A, the GACFT finalized a Waste and Residue Utilization report for the Golden Timber Supply Area (TSA) that was commissioned from Forsite Consultants, which explored opportunities and barriers for enhanced secondary fibre utilization in the TSA as alternatives to burning these residuals on site.

Secondary fibre is typically used for pulp and paper, pellet production, or fuel for bioenergy facilities. Forsite consulted major operators in the TSA, and reviewed publicly available data.

Their report determined that while 90 per cent of merchantable volume harvested produces saw log quality timber that is delivered to mills for lumber production, the remaining 10% is composed of marginal quality logs, branches and tops with the potential for secondary fibre utilization. This amounts to approximately 50,000 cubic metres per year of fibre in the TSA. While this is a significant volume of fibre, the amount of economically viable fibre is likely much lower.

The major challenges in the Golden TSA are the narrow or negative profit margins on secondary fibre, the long distances between harvest areas and communities that make fiber transport expensive, volatile prices for secondary fibre and the steep, mountainous nature of the TSA.

While historically poor economics have resulted in most of this fibre being burned in piles, recent changes to the open burning smoke control regulations combined with a growing desire by the public and the provincial government to cut carbon emissions and decrease air pollution, could alter the economics, incentivizing operators to minimize burning, while further supporting the development of secondary markets.

For instance, to reduce burning, the provincial government can alter stumpage rates while requiring harvesters to achieve a certain degree of waste reduction, orreduction or can provide direct funding to subsidize the utilization of secondary fibre.

While there may be operational and economic challenges to overcome, secondary fibre can be used in ways that can aid in reducing air pollution in the valley and increasing the efficient use of timber resources.

The Golden and Area A Community Forestry Team continues to press forward to determine what is possible in the Golden TSA and to build the relationships and connections necessary to formally approach the provincial government to request a community forest in the region.

Public consultations will begin once we are invited by the provincial government to apply. Public involvement is an important part of community forestry and will be integral to making this initiative a success. Opportunities for Golden and Area A residents and organizations to become involved in this initiative will be announced as they arise.

GACFT has been working with Shuswap Indian Band, Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area A and Town of Golden.