Fraser Lake and Vanderhoof will soon have their own income stream from the local woods. The provincial government announced Friday that both municipalities had the door opened for their own community forest.
A community forest is a tract (or several associated tracts) of trees set aside for a sustainable cycle of harvesting and replanting. The only operator allowed to do forestry on that landbase is the designated community (a municipality or First Nation or community group).
Fraser Lake and Vanderhoof have been given permission to apply for these special forestry licenses now that the inventory homework has been done, said Nechako-Lakes MLA John Rustad.
"We issued both of them an offer to apply for a community forest, which means they have a commitment that we have completed the work to study it, the volume is there, and they can, if they choose, go ahead with the final steps," Rustad explains. "It takes a lot of work to develop partnerships, work out the logistics, and Fraser Lake is farther along in the at part of the process than Vanderhoof but I expect both will soon be utilizing their designated forest for good community benefits."
Fraser Lake mayor Dwayne Lindstrom said "Community forests provide local jobs and give communities a stronger, more diverse economic base. We asked the province to come to the table on this issue, and they responded positively and are working with us to make a community forest a reality in Fraser Lake."
Both towns will be able to process about 45,000 cubic metres per year, or the equivalent of 1,300 to 1,500 loads of logs on a standard logging truck.
"Fraser Lake, like Burns Lake next door, was concerned about their fibre supply issue, so this will alleviate some of that, and give some certainty to some forest workers who want to live and work in the Fraser Lake area," said Rustad.
There are no milling requirements attached to these small area-based tenures, so each community can negotiate with any sawmill they like, be it in their home area or as far away as Prince George, Fort St. James, Mackenzie, Quesnel, or to help restart Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake after a fatal explosion and fire in 2011 destroyed the operation. Work has begun to rebuild that mill.
Since 2004, government has signed 47 community forest agreements with a total annual allowable cut of 1.3 million cubic metres of timber a year. Prince George, Fort St. James, Burns Lake, Houston, Smithers and Granisle are among the municipalities in the region that have community forest licenses.