Proponents for a community forest agreement near Williams Lake say opportunities for input from the public into the management of the community forest will remain open after the application is submitted.
In a joint press release the City of Williams Lake and the Williams Lake Indian Band said they feel they’ve taken reasonable actions to respond to nearby residents’ and communities’ concerns and have provided for their future involvement in the management of the proposed community forest areas.
A direct invitation to apply for a CFA came to the proponents from Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, an invitation WLIB Chief Anne Louie said her band was pleased to receive.
The forests being proposed in the pending application are the Ne sextsine Sextsine (Flat Rock) and Peskwenkwinem (Potato Mountain) blocks.
Louie said both are within the band’s traditional territory and well suited to community forestry, and both blocks are of great spiritual and cultural importance to the band.
“The band welcomes the city (which is also encapsulated within our traditional territory boundaries) as its partner in a CFA within our traditional territory. We see this as a long term relationship that will last for many generations. While we recognize that others may have different opinions, we request that our right to decide with whom we partner be respected,” Louie said.
“The band does not presume to tell others who they must partner with in order to graze their cattle, harvest trees or run their businesses within the band’s traditional territory, so the band asks that the same courtesy and consideration be extended to them.”
Three open-house meetings were held, including a very well attended meeting at the Big Lake hall on Nov. 13, 2011.
At these meetings the partners took public input on the goals and values of management for the selected areas, and more information was gathered from individuals after those meetings. This input has been incorporated into the application and the forest management plan being prepared for submission to the ministry.
In addition, several meetings were held with representatives of the communities of Big Lake, Horsefly and Miocene to gather input and address their concerns.
During those meetings the communities expressed the need to have direct input into the management of the community forest.
The partners responded by committing to create a community council so that people and communities near the community forest could have direct input into the management and administration of the community forest.
Representatives asked for one or more seats on the board of directors.
The partners were not comfortable agreeing to this request. The board of directors will be appointed by a legal partnership between the band and city which, in addition to holding the CFA may conduct other business the partners may wish to pursue. In such circumstances, it is standard business practice for partners to appoint people of their choice to the board of directors.
The partners did, however, commit to the board of directors meeting with the community council annually or more often so that the community representatives will have direct access to the board.
The neighbouring communities demanded a fixed annual payment in perpetuity. The amount requested was determined by the partners to be economically unviable. However, the partners agreed to make five per cent of the net annual profits available within communities adjacent to the community forest.
The partners further committed to purchase goods and services locally; to put work out for bid so contractors and businesses that reside near to the community forest would have a competitive advantage; and to sell logs to the whole range of milling and manufacturing businesses, from the major licensees in town to the small mills and businesses throughout the local area.
Mayor Kerry Cook said the City of Williams Lake will direct its share of the profits from the community forest to economic development, and promoting arts, culture and recreation; i.e. activities that will benefit residents of neighbouring communities as well as those who reside at Sugarcane and in the city.
“With that in mind, we will welcome input from other communities, either via the community council or through other forums.”