The City of Quesnel has been attempting to obtain a community forest since the inception of the program in the 1990s. Despite numerous attempts, and despite being one of BC’s most forest dependent communities, the City, for a variety of reasons, was not successful in achieving a community forest license while many other communities in the North were. That’s about to change.
During the most recent reset of the Annual Allowable Cut for the Quesnel Timber Supply Area, the Minister of Forests created a new allocation of timber for a community forest license, as well as more volume for First Nations licenses. Creating the opportunity for a community forest and more First Nations’ volume at that time was a bold step by the provincial government, as the total volume available to harvest in the Quesnel Timber Supply Area was declining significantly and many of us thought the opportunity for Quesnel to achieve a community forest had long past.
The province also made another bold move when it offered this new community forest allocation not simply to the City, but to a much broader potential partnership group made up of the City of Quesnel, the Cariboo Regional District, and four First Nations governments (Lhtako, Nazko, Lhoosk’uz, and Esdilagh).
At its core, community forestry is about local control over and enjoyment of the monetary and non-monetary benefits offered by local forest resources. A community forest license also provides a way to involve residents more directly in the stewardship of the land base surrounding their communities. By offering the potential community forest license to all the local governments in our region, including First Nations, the province enabled Quesnel’s community forest to be a powerful tool for reconciliation.
Over the past two years, the City of Quesnel, Lhtako, Lhoosk’uz, Nazko, and Esdilagh have been working collaboratively to form a partnership (the CRD chose to withdraw from the provincial offer) that would ultimately manage the forest lands surrounding the City of Quesnel for a variety of values and interests: ecosystem health and resiliency, watershed protection, fire prevention, recreation, respect for traditional use by First Nations, education and training in alternate forest management techniques, timber and fibre harvesting, innovative forest management and manufacturing, and employment.
At the group’s last meeting there was also general agreement on the potential land base that might be included in the community forest application. A land base that roughly mirrors the City’s wildfire protection plan area plus crown land to the southeast and to the northwest of the Fraser River.
The group is now seeking public input into its application for a community forest license and invites you to participate by means of a survey online: bit.ly/34hQS56 or paper copies are available at each government’s office. They want to know what a community forest means to you and what interests and values you’d like to see achieved through this forest license.
The survey is open until March 31 and your input will be incorporated into the final application that the group will submit to the provincial government this fall. Please take the time to have your say in this important initiative.