B.C.'s forestry watchdog has taken aim at McBride's town-owned forest company.
"An audit of the McBride Community Forest in the Robson Valley has found several instances of noncompliance with provincial forestry legislation," said a scathing statement issued Tuesday by the Forest Practices Board (FPB), a government agency independently operated to audit the behaviour of those working in the B.C. forest industry.
Officials with the McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) responded that the organization "accepted the findings" and "accepts full responsibility." Board chair Rick Thompson said "MCFC takes very seriously the findings...and has already undertaken steps to improve in all five cases outlined in the FPB report."
The points of contention included failure to show road locations on site plan maps, in one instance leading to a poorly constructed road that caused environmental harm; five access roads were upgraded and used without authorization; the status of cutblocks was not reported to government when required; and accurate silviculture information was not maintained by the community forest.
"Each of these findings has potential implications for the overall sound management of forest resources, and collectively they raise serious questions about the community forest corporation's diligence and attention to detail," said the statement. "In our opinion, the management of the McBride Community Forest is not up to the standard required by provincial forestry legislation and expected by the public, nor is it reflective of the generally good management of other community forests we have audited in the past."
Despite these allegations, said Thompson, "MCFC is proud of our forest planning and management history, generation of local employment, and millions of dollars in funding for local projects," in the 10 years the community forest has existed.
It has been a painful time in the Robson Valley forest sector, said McBride mayor Mike Frazier.
"I don't see where our community would be today without our community forest. Our community benefits from some economic activity in the agriculture and tourism sectors but forestry remains the economic backbone of McBride and the Robson Valley. Our community forest has kept loggers and forest products employees working, and provided millions of dollars towards improving community facilities and seniors housing. I'm confident our staff will use the finding of the FPB audit to improve our forest planning and management and have our community forest provide numerous benefits for generations to come."
The McBride community forest was selected for audit by a random draw. Valemount's community forest was chosen at the same time and that audit resulted in a clean record there.
Thompson and Frazier estimated the economic spinoff of their community forest to be about $30 million over 10 years, plus $2.5 million in direct municipal dividends.