A partnership between the Pacheedaht First Nation, the provincial government and the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative has resulted in a first-of-its-kind community forest agreement: the Qala:yit Community Forest.
The deal is unique among B.C.’s 56 community forests and resulted from legislation passed in 2016 designed to allow new community forest licences in areas where there are significant competing pressures on the land. It’s the first to include a revenue-sharing agreement with B.C. Timber Sales.
“With such a tight land base in the area, the Qala:yit Community Forest would not have been possible without entering into this agreement with BCTS,” said Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
“Because of the willingness of all parties to embrace ingenuity, the Pacheedaht First Nation and Cowichan Lake communities are now poised to reap the financial and social rewards and increased input into local resource management decisions that go along with community forest agreements.”
Under the agreement, the Qala:yit community forest will have an annual cut of 31,498 cubic metres of timber.
Because its tenure includes areas where BCTS is already operating, revenues from a quarter of the annual cut – or 7,296 cubic metres – will be shared 50/50 between BCTS and the other Qala:yit partners. Those funds will be used by those partners within their communities.
As part of the application, the partners demonstrated community awareness and support for the community forest, including building relationships and sharing information with neighbouring First Nations and area communities.
The applicants also submitted a management plan for approval that helped determine the final allowable annual cut, set at 31,498 cubic metres on about 8,000 hectares of Crown land.
“This is the latest stride that our nation has taken towards creating our own economic destiny, including a new sawmill and a new potable community water system that is capable of serving the entire Port Renfrew area,” said Jeff Jones, chief of Pacheedaht First Nation.
Community forest agreements are long-term, area-based tenures designed to encourage community involvement in the management of local forests. A community forest is managed by a local government, community group or First Nation for the benefit of the entire community.
Lorne Scheffer, the chair of the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative expressed his satisfaction with the agreement.
He said that the partnership with the Pacheedaht First Nation has taken considerable work by all parties but that the equal partnership now in place is something that is a welcome outcome.
“It has been a long road and a lengthy process, but our partnership has worked effectively together with the province to reach the desired outcome. We appreciate our work with B.C. Timber Sales and being able to contribute to the market pricing system with benefits from their disposition still flowing into our communities,” Scheffer said.