Ucluelet and the Toquaht First Nation have officially entered the community forest business.
The two communities have partnered to join the Barkley Community Forest Corporation and this corporation recently signed an agreement with the provincial government for roughly 6,700 hectares near Maggie Lake to operate for a 25-year term with an annual allowable cut of 27,000 cubic metres.
BCâ€™s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson announced the agreement on June 22.
â€œCommunity forests are a key component of our Forest Sector Strategy,â€ Thomson said. â€œThese licences give people in rural communities across the province a way to diversify their economies and gain a strong voice in how local forests are managed and sustained.â€
Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News a community forest has been a long time coming and both communities are stoked to get going.
â€œItâ€™s a done deal and itâ€™s really exciting,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s a really good news happy story full of opportunity for people in our communities…This is another tool in the box to diversify our economy, to get some forestry happening, to provide jobs and, overtime, to provide income to the communities for special projects.â€
Along with harvesting revenue, St. Jacques said the forest could also bring educational and tourism opportunities.
â€œItâ€™s a huge land base for the corporation to have access to and just to see whatâ€™s possible out there and how we can make it best work for us,â€ she said.
â€œWhatever we can do in education and tourism to generate opportunities and jobs would be good for all of us.â€
St. Jacques said Ucluelet has been dreaming of operating a community forest for about 15 years but one of the reasons for the hold-up was finding the right space.
â€œEverybody was in favour of our communities having a community forest but there were some challenges in finding the proper land base where it could be workable for both harvesting and whatever else we decide to do moving forward,â€ she said.
She noted 27,000 cubic metres is a relatively small amount compared to the West Coastâ€™s past logging activity but said it would still bring substantial results.
â€œTo put it in perspective, in the heyday of Clayoquot Sound it used to be a 1-million cubic metre cut in there,â€ she said.
â€œSo itâ€™s not huge, it still is quite a small cut, but it can do substantial benefit for our communities no question about it.â€
She said funds raised from the forest would initially be reinvested back into the corporation to foster growth.
Chief Anne Mack of the Toquaht First Nation is excited to see the benefits roll in.
â€œIâ€™m looking forward to the opportunities that the new community forest will provide to our community. Not only does it give us a greater say in how the land in the region will be managed, but it helps us build economic and employment opportunities for young people in our community," Mack said through a recent media release.
The provincial government has signed off on 51 community forest agreements since 2004 totaling roughly 1.4 cubic metres of timber annually, according to the release.
Port Alberni signed a community forest agreement with the Province in 2009 for about 6,400 hectares and an annual allowable cut of 18,156 cubic metres.
In 2014, the Alberni Valley Times reported that the city-owned Alberni Valley Community Forest had announced a $350,000 profit that would be invested in local projects and initiatives.