A community forest agreement with the City of Williams Lake and the Williams Lake Indian Band has been approved by the provincial government.
Spanning 29,000 hectares, the agreement covers two sites: Ne-sextsine, or Flat Rock, which is just west of the city and Peskwenkwinem, or Potato Mountain, which is located between the Likely and Horsefly Roads.
“It’s a great opportunity for both the city and band to deepen their relationship as business partners and neighbours,” Mayor Kerry Cook said citing the project as a way to further diversify the local economy and create more business for the region.
Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie said the agreement helps the T’exelcemc people achieve a vision of working in unity to strengthen its Secwepemc culture.
“We have a very good relationship with the city and we will continue to work together to build economic opportunities to ensure the sustainability of our local forests,” Louie said.
With a total allowable annual cut on the two sites of 40,000 cubic metres or 800 truckloads of logs, all surplus revenues of the Limited Partnership will be shared equally between the band and the city.
Louie said the band and city are working with community representatives to arrange a public meeting to discuss the community forest.
Meanwhile, Cariboo Regional District Area F Director Joan Sorley said residents living near the eastern block are disappointed.
In the past two years, a working committee representing Big Lake, Horsefly and Miocene has advocated for a greater role in the CFA. More than 100 people from those communities have attended every community meeting about the CFA.
“A resident told me the approval is sad news, it was obvious no one was listening and what a waste of time it had been to gather as concerned citizens.”
Sorley had originally promised to support the CF if the working committee’s four conditions were met, but the first three were denied, she said.
They included a seat on the CFA board elected from the communities, more money, that the resource committee membership be limited to those communities impacted by the CFA, and consultation around the annual setting of priorities of cut-blocks, to ensure the community’s priorities are met.
“I have approached the Mayor and Chief Ann and asked if we could meet and talk about whether there is some common ground,” Sorley said. “Maybe we can come up with something to take to the communities that we can support.”
Working committee member David Zirnhelt said the communities haven’t had the opportunity to define themselves throughout the planning stages of the CFA.
“Contrary to the spirit of the legislation around community forests, which was to let communities work out what the opportunities are and lay claim, all along there’s been a reluctance by the proponents to get into an open public dialogue with the communities,” he said.