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Here’s what the Tri-Port is doing with its community forest funds

It was back in 2011 when the North Island Community Forest was born
(North Island Community Forest website photo/

Written by Derek Koel

Koel’s Notes

On Oct. 19, forestry and municipal types mingled together at the Seven Hills Golf and Country Club for an open house, hosted by the North Island Community Forest Limited Partnership, (NICF.)

It was back in 2011 when Port Alice, Port Hardy and Port McNeill were awarded a small but significant forest tenure, and a diverse group of local talent was chosen by the respective town councils to be the board of directors. As such, the North Island Community Forest was born.

There are three distinct operating areas totaling 2,390 hectares. They are located on Kwakiutl First Nation and Quatsino First Nation territories, on and around Alice Lake, Marble River and Quatse Lake. The board is currently focusing its operations in the Marble River area, filling it’s 10,400m3 annual allowable cut there.

Since that time, NICF’s mission, operations and board members have changed, but the millions paid in dividends could be viewed as a good indicator of the venture’s success.

NICF is mandated to work with only $300,000 of working capital. More dividend cheques for the Tri-Port are just a matter of time.

The 30 or so people in attendance at the open house, mostly folks associated with the municipalities, were treated to a delicious spread of food and good news. The volunteer board of directors announced, after dishing out more than $6 million in profit so far, that they were at it again, as more money was made with a recently completed project.

While there are no specific financial details, as NICF operates as a private limited company, NICF recently saw a contract completed by Probyn Log Ltd, who had representatives at the meeting.

That contract was for salvaged/damaged windfall in the Marble River operating area, approximately 7800m3 of wind fallen timber. Trees in this area blew down following a catastrophic wind event in the fall of 2019.

Recreation continues to be a key part of NICF’s focus. Recent upgrades to Pinch Creek on Alice Lake are a good example, and they are looking at other recreation opportunities like establishing an interpretive trail in the Marble River area.

It wasn’t all good news on the forest front. NICF continues to “lose value” due to log theft and unauthorized firewood cutting. People are even falling trees and cutting harvested logs piled on the side of the road. One board member estimated the loss to be in the 4-5 per cent range.

To date, the NICF has dished out a total of $6 million to the Tri-Port region. Here’s an update on what each community is doing with it’s $2 million dollar share of the windfall.

Port Hardy

Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt and staff confirmed that the district does not have a community forest bylaw per se, they have “an internally restricted reserve” which holds the community forest fund. The balance of the fund on Dec. 31, 2022, was $1,395,767.

Port Hardy Coun. Janet Dorward, who was at the open house, confirmed that Port Hardy “utilizes the Community Forest funding towards recreation,” with a considerable amount of money going into the upgrading of the curling club’s roof back in 2017 (around $300,000).

The 2023 budget is utilizing community forest money for two projects, $760,000 for the indoor swimming pool project and another $95,720 for the T-float upgrade.

Port Alice

Details are less precise about Port Alice’s piece of the pie, as they do not have a bylaw for Community Forest dividends expenditures. The village reported they “have spent some of the money.” Most recently it was used to help cover the wages for an Economic Development Officer (approx. $25,000) and another $20,000 was spent to redo the trim at the Community Centre, purchasing locally milled cedar for the job.

Port McNeill

How the Town of Port McNeill addressed the Community Forest funds differs from its Tri-Port neighbours in two ways.

First, when the Community Forest started to pay dividends, the town set up a specific Bylaw (No. 667, 2016) which establishes the “reserve fund” only be spent for “the purpose of infrastructure expenditures.”

Secondly, they have not spent a penny of the $2 million and there seems to be no official plans to do so. Nothing planned in this year’s budget, or the 5-year plan.

Town staff reported there are “no plans to use these reserves at this current time. The 2024-2028 budget is being developed and reserves, along with capital and operating requirements and expenditures will be discussed.”