Vanderhoof is one of the few communities in northern B.C. without its own supply of harvestable timber, says Mayor Gerry Thiessen.
For about a decade, Vanderhoof council has been pursuing a community forest, a designated area that “can provide long term opportunities for achieving a range of community objectives, values and priorities which can include the harvesting of timber as well as non-timber forest products,” according to the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resource Operations.
Discussions between council and ministry officials have intensified in the past 12 months, but there is currently no application for a community forest in Vanderhoof.
As the district looks to take on a more direct role in managing its forestry, Thiessen said the process needs to be looked at objectively while also “ensuring that we have a fiber supply that will encourage business in the Vanderhoof area.”
A community forest would benefit Vanderhoof economically, attracting business to the area and helping existing industry sustain operations, said Thiessen.
“I think there would be huge incentives for companies in Vanderhoof that don’t have a long-standing fiber supply to know that, if there was a community forest, they would have access,” he said.
Harvestable timber would offer the district a source of tax-free revenue that could be invested in extra projects to enhance the community, explained Thiessen.
But establishing a community forest takes time.
First, a community needs to submit an application, then an operating area needs to be identified, then a management plan needs to be approved by the ministry.
Once a community is invited to apply for a community forest, it can take between one to two years before it becomes operational, according to the ministry.
In 2013, Thiessen believes council will take a more in-depth approach to establishing a community forest in Vanderhoof.
“I think you will see council looking very seriously at the pros and cons and different options that could benefit our community,” he said.