PORT McNEILL—After labouring behind the scenes for the better part of three years, the North Island’s Community Forest directors unveiled their work in an open house Saturday in the Town Office council chambers.
And they had plenty to show off.
The first timber sale under the community forest license, jointly held by the municipalities of Port Alice, Port Hardy and Port McNeill, was recently let to bid and resulted in a nearly $1.082 million offer by Western Forest Products through B.C. Timber Sales.
The contract is for nearly 45,000 cubic metres of timber near Marble River, from one of three blocks held under the Community Forest License.
“It’s a monumental step,” said John Lok, one of seven directors who met with the three community stakeholders before opening the doors to the public. “It’s our intention this first offering will sustain the long-term planning and budgeting and ensure successful forest management for our stakeholders.”
The funds received through timber sales will serve to benefit each of the member communities, which hold three equal shares in the enterprise established in March of 2011. It is one of 47 active community forests in the province, with nine more in application process.
“The funds will enable us, depending what council decides, to hold the line on taxes, pay down debt, or included it in our general fund,” Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney said of his town’s share. “It’s a little bit of a bonus that may be used on something on council’s wish list that up until now they haven’t had funds to deal with.”
There is no money to spend quite yet, with a down payment of $5,600 holding WFP’s rights until timber is harvested. The community forest is incorporated as a limited partnership between the three communities and NICF, which will administer the fund with an eye toward long-term stewardship of the forest.
“The ultimate benefit of a community forest is money coming back into the communities,” said Lok. “But we have to make sure we have sufficient operating capital to ensure we’re standing on our own two feet and be stewards of a healthy, sustainable forest. Eventually we’ll distribute dividends.”
The three blocks included under the North Island Community Forest license hold a total of roughly 2,390 hectares, with blocks near Quatse Lake and the east side of Alice Lake in addition to the Marble River block.
The community forest is held on a five-year, renewable license issued by the province for Crown land.
It is not merely a tree-cutting cash cow, however. The community forest must be managed for values including soils, water quality, visual resources, wildlife and fish habitat and recreation in addition to old-growth and timber management.