Work is continuing on the Cheakamus Community Forest ecosystem-based management plan and members of the community still have time to have their voices heard.
The community forest has been working closely with Ecotrust Canada on developing the plan and held a public engagement session at the end of October.
The forest group itself is a combination of the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, which were awarded the tenure for the 33,000 hectares surrounding Whistler in 2009.
Board chair and managing director of the CCF Peter Akhurst said since it was established the board has set out to manage the area sustainably and in line with Whistler 2020 and First Nations values.
That led to work on the ecosystem-based management plan, which is in its final draft format and will be essential for determining the forest’s annual allowable cut and the process to begin selling carbon credits.
The community consultation at the end of last month saw a good turnout of citizens, said Akhurst, who were all supportive of the community forest, but expressed varying views on the values they would like to see represented.
“Like many things balance is what you are aiming for,” Akhurst said. “You have to stay in the middle and try and keep all concerns addressed as best you can.”
Ecotrust Canada president Brenda Kuecks said the non-profit organization has been supporting the CCF for the past four years in a variety of ways.
“We think the community forest tool is an interesting and really important way for communities to participate in the forestry industry that maximizes value return to communities,” Kuecks said. “It allows the community to define the kind of activities it wants to happen on a forest land base.”
Along with work on the ecosystem-based management plan, Ecotrust is working on the carbon credit model for the CCF.
“It will be the first ever carbon project in a community forest and we think that will be an important signal for other communities to gain value from timber other than through forestry,” she said.
The approach looks at management of the forest from social, environmental and economic perspectives.
For example social considerations include: tourism and forestry jobs, high value conservation forests, recreation, First Nations, public engagement and Firesmart.
Environmental considerations include: having a functional ecosystem and developing targets for forest reserves and old growth stands.
Economic considerations take into account that the revenue of the CCF comes from an annual logging program and selling carbon credits.
“The goal is not to maximize profits, but improve the forest,” Akhurst said.
The expectation is that through the plan the community forest will have a target for what area it wants to protect and preserve as well as identifying where those protected areas are and the rational for protecting them.
While not a regulatory document, the ecosystem-based management plan does lead into the production of other plans including a forest management plan expected in 2013.
That plan is what will provide legislative protection for parts of the CCF.
“After (this consultation process) we will take all the comments and we will rewrite the (ecosystem-based management plant) handbook,” Akhurst said. “We don’t promise everybody is going to get everything they want and that document will be used as a basis to manage to community forest.”
Go to www.cheakamuscommunityforest.com to learn more, or provide feedback on the plan.