The Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has offered Vanderhoof up to 45,000 cubic metres per year for a community forest.
The recent announcement by Minster Steve Thomson is in response to a Feb. 8 letter from Mayor Gerry Thiessen expressing interest in establishing a community forest agreement.
For more than 10 years Vanderhoof council has been pursuing a community forest, a designated area of land controlled by the town that would provide long-term opportunities for achieving a range of community objectives by harvesting timber as well as non-timber forest products.
“It’s positive for the community because it gives the community an opportunity to have a say in how the forest around Vanderhoof is managed,” said Thiessen on March 21.
“It also gives us the opportunity to share in some of the revenue that comes from those forests, to enhance the infrastructure and capacity of the community.”
A community forest could be harvested in a number of different ways, such as by selling logs to area mills. The profits, in turn, could be invested in infrastructure or development projects.
Before inviting Vanderhoof to apply for a community forest, Thomson said Vanderhoof must work with a major licensee, like Canfor or L&M Lumber, to locate a suitable operating area.
The town, which has already entered discussions with licensees, is also required to consult with Saik’uz First Nation and the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako to acquire documented support.
“That’s where we’re at right now,” said Thiessen.
Paul Heit, woodlands manager for Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products (VSWP), a value-added lumber re-manufacturer of waste wood into finger joints, pellets, posts and rails, supports the idea of establishing a community forest but said the ministry’s offering of 45,000 cubic metres per year is relatively small and falls short of satisfying the needs of some area companies.
As part of a two-part application, VSWP alone has asked the ministry for a tenure of 100,000 cubic metres per year, as well as an additional 100,000 cubic metres per year under a business venture to create a merchandising centre that would separate and supply logs to smaller, non-tenure mills in Prince George, Burns Lake and Vanderhoof.
“We see that as a way to grow the small business sector,” said Heit.
In addition to a community forest, Heit would like to see the province provide more security of tenure to existing mills and forestry-related companies in Vanderhoof to sustain jobs and operations, as well as acquire financing for expansion.
“We should be working together to not only gain access to, potentially, a community forest, but also in helping the companies in the community obtain tenure as well,” Heit said.
Jason Gordon, planning forester for L&M Lumber Ltd., a Vanderhoof-based mill that employs some 200 people in the area, stated that a community forest would add long term fibre supply to local mills while providing direct revenue to the municipality.
“Currently, L&M Lumber only has 12 per cent of our long term fibre supply needs, so (a potential community forest) could benefit our operations by providing fibre security,” he said in an email.