Chief Ann Louie says the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) and city of Williams Lake community forest planned for the areas outside of Williams Lake will provide opportunities to small communities near the forests.
“We’ve committed to a community council that will help plan activities, guide resource management decisions, and contracting opportunities will go to local businesses,” Louie told the Tribune.
The community forest will benefit rural communities because the holders of the license will purchase goods and services from rural communities, Louie added.
“We have also made a commitment to share in the profits of the community forest on the years that we have profits for community-based projects and we also had a standing offer to the communities should a community forest license invitation [from government] come open again we were willing to exchange land if that was possible,” Louie said, adding back in 1998 WLIB began pursuing a community forest agreement.
Mayor Kerry Cook said the city also began pursuing a community forest agreement at the same time.
“We requested an application to apply in 1998 and continued to pursue it until 2007 when the Minister of Forests invited the city to apply. Early on in the process it became clear to the city that the community forest area was going to be within the traditional territory of the Williams Lake Indian Band so the best way to proceed was in a partnership with the Indian Band,” Cook recalled.
Subsequently the city worked with WLIB to identify areas with forests that are suitable to community forestry, but also contained importance to the WLIB, Cook added.
“The selection of a forest also had to meet the criteria set by government. Of course the criteria set by government significantly limited where the forest could be located,” Cook said.
As a result the city “waited for years” until it received an invitation from government in 2010 to apply for a joint partnership with WLIB.