In a letter dated May 19, 2011, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MOF), Steve Thompson wrote the Cortes Island Community Forest Advisory Group offering a direct invitation to apply for a Community Forest Agreement (CFA) on Cortes Island. MOF has confirmed that the invitation applies to all crown forest land on the island and an allowable annual cut (AAC) of up to 13,600 cubic meters per year.
CFAs are a form of legal tenure that enable communities to more fully participate in the stewardship of local crown forest resources. They have an initial term of 25 years. CFAs are area-based and give communities exclusive rights to harvest timber as well as the opportunity to manage other forest resources within the CFA area. Unlike other forest tenures which must be competitively advertised, there is provision in legislation which allows the Minister to directly invite a community to apply for a CFA. There are close to 50 communities in BC which either have an operating CFA or have received an invitation to apply. The agreement holder is responsible for all planning, development and reforestation. Operations are subject to the requirements of provincial legislation, the licence agreement and commitments made in the Forest Stewardship Plan.
Community involvement in forest management issues on Cortes Island grew during the 1990’s. In 1999, the Cortes Eco-forestry Society (CES) was formed. Original objectives involved acquisition and conservation of private forest holdings and local management and conservation of crown forest land on Cortes Island. The CES proposal for a community forest covering crown forest land was included as an expression of interest for the community forest pilot program and later as an application under the current community forest program.
Issues previously identified by the MOF were a lack of available AAC, conflicts with existing forest tenure holder operating areas and concern that the primary objective was conservation. There also remained unresolved conflicts with the Klahoose First Nation which precluded award of new forest tenure.
CES previously had a membership of 400 residents supporting their goals, however in recent years the organization has been less active as there has been little forest development on the island and the community forest proposal was stalled.
As a result of the Bill 28 timber reallocation process, volume was made available for small community tenures, including Woodlot Licences and CFAs. Conflicts with existing tenure holders were removed. As a result of discussions with CES representatives, Klahoose agreed to support the community’s efforts to revitalize the community forest proposal. A small, voluntary advisory group was formed (Bruce Ellingsen, Kathy Francis, Liz Richardson and Ron Wolda). Greg Hemphill, a director with Klahoose Forestry Limited Partnership (and a former MOF district manager) provided advice as to what may be needed to receive an invitation to apply.
Klahoose First Nation and the Strathcona Regional District provided letters of support. To ensure the proposal was seen to be inclusive of all islanders, the proponent name was changed to the Cortes Island Community Forest advisory group. It took over two years of persistent effort to finally receive the Minister’s invitation.
Community’s Proposed Management Objectives
The proposal carried forward much of the CES work, including an ecosystem based approach to forest management. Emphasis will also be placed on creating economic development on the island, including employment, and business opportunities for local forestry contractors, mill owners and value added manufacturers and profits which can be directed to community projects. The Cortes forests are dominated by unmanaged 50-90 year old Douglas Fir stands. There are opportunities to improve forest productivity on the better sites. Remaining old growth patches and other sensitive ecosystems will be conserved. Protecting water quality, particularly in domestic use watersheds will be an overriding objective. Maintaining visual quality is important for residents and part of maintaining diversity in the local economy. Interface fire management is also great concern for the island.
Government’s Objectives for the Community Forest Program
Provide long term opportunities for achieving a range of community objectives, values and benefits. Diversify the use and benefits derived from the community forest area. Provide social and economic benefits to BC. Undertake community forestry consistent with sound principles of environmental stewardship of a broad spectrum of values. Promote community involvement, participation and communication between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. Foster innovation and advocate worker safety.
The process involves three stages; obtaining the invitation to apply, the application itself and then the operational planning stage (Forest Stewardship Plan and Cutting Permits). The advisory group is concentrating on stage two; the application.
The invitation to apply is valid for 120 days. The invitation is for an AAC of up to 13,600 cubic meters per year. This amount reflects the remaining AAC in the Sunshine Coast TSA small tenures allocation, not the actual proposed AAC which will be determined by a timber supply analysis of the CFA area. The MOF has agreed to conduct the analysis which saves the community considerable money. The application must include written documentation from the MOF district that the area is suitable and AAC is applicable for the CFA area.
The legal entity which will hold the CFA must be established before the agreement is issued. This approach has been a joint effort of the Cortes Island community and Klahoose and it’s expected we will carry this forward in the corporate entity. A management plan must be prepared by a registered professional forester. Information regarding community awareness, support and ongoing involvement is required and there are business planning requirements which must be included. First nations with overlapping traditional territory must be consulted prior to award of the CFA.
The first step will be providing information to the community. A proposed budget has been developed to cover what is required to complete the application, including the legal process of establishing the corporate entity and hiring a forest consultant to prepare the management plan.
Advisory group contacts are:
Bruce and Kathy have been joint spokespersons.