Chilcotin community forest thriving

Chilcotin community forest reaps $2.8 million retained as income in first harvest year

The Eniyud Community Forest (ECF) is another great example of First Nations and non-First Nations working together to improve the economic situation in the region, said Tsi Del Del (Alexis Creek) chief Percy Guichon.

“We all hear negative things in the news about First Nations not supporting New Prosperity mine, but there are other good things happening that people are not aware of,” Guichon said. “This community forest has provided economic opportunities and it is looking after the forest for the benefit of future generations.”

Recently ECF completed its first year of harvesting with operations beginning in mid-June and ramping up to full production in July.

Approximately 81,000 cubic metres of wood was removed from a 371-hectare area in the western portion of the forest. Sales went to West Fraser Mills of Williams Lake, valued $4.4 million, with $2.8 million retained as local income, providing a “huge economic boost to the area,” said ECF manager Dave Neads.

West Fraser also provided valuable assistance in many operational areas, he added.

Nearly 50 per cent of the hauling went to local contractors and all phases of the harvesting were done by Tsi Del Del Enterprises, hiring local expertise to build block roads, operate equipment for felling, skidding, processing and loading, while providing on-site management, including temporary deactivation of the road systems.

“Tsi Del Del has about 30 employees — a mix of local First Nations and non-First Nations neighbours in the area,” Guichon said, adding “a lot” of the truck drivers and some of the contractors are from Williams Lake.

Additionally, several local tourism operators housed and fed crews, while layout, cruising and planning were largely done by contractors from Redstone and the surrounding area, Neads said.

Formed in 2007,  ECF is a limited company and joint partnership between the Alexis Creek First Nation and Tatla Resource Association, each owning 50 per cent of the company.

Guichon said his community also has a role ensuring ECF is successful.

“We have three members from our community on the board of directors, there are another three from Tatla Resource Association. We provide input on all aspects of the community forest operations at a strategic level.”

The forest stretches from a point five to 10 kilometres east of Redstone west to Tatla Lake, covering an area of approximately 115,000 hectares.

“It’s kind of a narrow strip and then it goes down into Tatla. It’s kind of an odd-shaped area,” Guichon explained.

Logging was carefully monitored with a full range of trees being harvested, from the majority being poor quality beetle killed trees at lower elevations to older green trees higher up the mountain, predominantly Engelmann spruce and a little bit of fir.

All silviculture obligations have been assumed by the ECF, with monies set aside per cubic metre to cover costs as they arise.

“We will be doing surveys and have already done a post-harvest survey, which is a requirement. We’ve taken roads to de-activation, conducted burning and have silviculture plans in place,” Neads said.

The community forest was 10 years in the making, after a “full-on” community consultation process.

“We spent a long time meeting in both communities — Alexis Creek and Tatla Lake — meeting,” Neads explained. “This grew out of the Cariboo Chilcotin Land Use Plan, which was approved way back in 1994. Then there was a six-year period of developing with the local community, starting out with Riverside Mill in Williams Lake before they got bought out.”

Boundaries of the community forest were discussed thoroughly in the communities, along with what gets logged, where and how, what areas are off limits, all the viewscapes, and sensitive habitat.

“All that work was done over nearly a decade before the probationary license was even granted to cut,” Neads said, adding recently the provincial government recognized the ECF’s importance to the community by replacing the temporary five-year probationary licence it was granted in Jan. 2010 with a 25-year renewable forest licence on Oct. 17, 2012.

“This award recognizes the professionalism of the ECF and the many years of hard, patient work done by members of the ECF community to bring local control of forest management and economic return to the area,” he added.

Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson said seeing the two communities make a success of the opportunity provided by the Community Forest Agreement is great.

“That’s what these agreements are all about –  local decision-making, local control and local benefits. The fact that they are making a go of it with less-than-optimal timber that isn’t close to markets is also very positive.”

Thomson also said West Fraser deserves credit for lending their expertise to CFA and for providing a market for timber that’s been harvested.