The City of Williams Lake and the Williams Lake Indian Band announced Nov. 2 that a Community Forest Agreement (CFA) application has been submitted to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
If approved, the CFA will be for an initial term of 25 years, with provisions that it can be replaced, the city said in a press release.
The agreement will allow the partners to jointly harvest 40,000m3 (or approximately 800 logging truck loads) of timber annually from two areas.
A south block, the Flat Rock Block, is located west of the City, north of Highway 20 between Esler subdivision and overlooks the Fraser River, measuring 5,927 hectares.
A north block, the Potato Mountain Block, is east of Williams Lake. Spanning 22,912 ha, the block covers an area between the Likely and Horsefly Roads from Potato Mountain eastward and to Beaver Valley in the north.
“The city and the band understand that people living near the community forest are interested in the management of the forest and the benefits derived from it,” the press release noted.
The application includes several ways of sharing those benefits: the creation of a community council will provide opportunities to gather input on the goals and activities of management for the community forest area, work will be available to local individuals and companies through a contract tendering process, the community forest will purchase goods and services (e.g. search and rescue, firefighting, community hall rental) from communities and the creation of a community fund to support grants to community groups and projects.
Under the agreement, the city and band will be responsible for sustainably managing the forest resources within the two blocks, including timber, water, recreation, wildlife habitat, range and cultural values; and for accommodating the interests of resource users such as ranchers, guide outfitters, trappers and water licensees.
Once the application is approved, the partners will begin preparing a Forest Stewardship Plan for public review and comment.
“Submitting this application is quite an achievement. Over the past few years, we have been able to build a strong relationship with Chief Ann Louie and the Williams Lake Indian Band around our mutual interest in community forestry. We look forward to this application being approved and getting to work,” Williams Lake mayor Kerry Cook said.
Chief Ann Louie of the Williams Lake Indian Band said the band is pleased to partner with the city of Williams Lake.
“We look forward to managing the community forest sustainably and with respect for the spiritual and cultural values that are important to band members. While the community forest will provide benefits today, we will not lose sight that it is very important to future generations.”
In May 2011, Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, extended an invitation to apply for a (CFA) to the City of Williams Lake and the Williams Lake Indian Band.
Responding to the draft application, community members from Big Lake, Miocene and Horsefly passed a resolution during a town hall meeting facilitated by Cariboo North Independent MLA Bob Simpson on Oct. 24 in Big Lake.
Joan Sorley, director for Area F of the Cariboo Regional District, said the resolution was to write a letter to Thomson asking first for more substantial benefits to the communities and secondly for a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“We’ve always wanted to support the CFA, but want more benefits for the communities. Is there an opportunity for the communities of Big Lake, Miocene and Horsefly to have this block for ourselves and give another block to the city and the band?” Sorely said, adding the communities have always understood the area is Williams Lake Indian Band traditional territory.
“What they’ve always had trouble with is that the city of Williams Lake is coming into our forest and giving five per cent of net profits. Is there an opportunity for some of the communities that are severely impacted to have some of the block to manage for themselves?” Sorley added.
A third point in the resolution noted that without consideration of the first two points, the communities could not support the CFA application in its present form.
Sorely emphasized the “door is not slammed shut,” adding the communities are not flat out contesting the application.
“We’re looking to support but want to find a win-win. It was a good meeting. There were people that were outraged at the beginning when meetings began earlier in the year that have started to think about it more openly,” Sorely said.
The communities felt blind sided at the beginning because they had in fact asked for a community forest back in 2006 when Likely obtained one, Sorley added.
Simpson agreed to hand deliver the letter to Thomson.
“I think we’ve got an opportunity to get a win-win situation if we can get the ministry to make the pie bigger,” Simpson said.