Community forest at long last?

  • Jul. 28, 2015 6:00 a.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverAfter 20 years and several failed attempts to start a community forest on Haida Gwaii, Misty Isles Economic Development Society thinks it might be close to finally realizing that dream. As the organization nears a regularly scheduled board meeting later this month, they’ll be addressing the complexities of Haida Gwaii’s unique situation after five years of independent research.The challenges of a community forest arose from the start, when Masset was invited by the province to start tenure in 2008. But the Village turned down the offer as it stood, because it was thought that a community forest should involve all communities of Haida Gwaii-a community forest should be owned by all municipalities and Regional District areas. The tenure would have parcels of land on both Moresby and Graham Islands. Haida Gwaii has yet to be officially invited by the province, but has been offered to participate in a new model for community forests, an area-based tenure that provides 80,000 sqaure-metres per-year volume, provided that municipalities enter an agreement with BC Timber Sales. This new proposed model will make Haida Gwaii the home of B.C.’s largest community forest. “With this unique model we could set a new president for working with BCTS,” Cameron Bell, economic development officer for MIEDS told the Observer. The MIEDS board will be reviewing the Province’s proposed offer and all its legalities before they can decide if this is the structure they want to move forward with. Over the past five years MIEDS has generated revenue through the interim sales of 25,000 square-metres of timber per-year, managed by BCTS. The money from the sale will help with the start-up costs of a community forest, which have cost other communities hundreds of thousands of dollars, added Mr. Bell. It is unknown at this time if the Province will continue this agreement while negotiations are in place for the community forest. “Trying to find a place in the forest is the biggest challenge we face,” Mr. Bell said. The community forest has to take access and availability along with several other factors into consideration before a location can be designated for a community forest. Before an agreement can be signed there will have to be extensive community consultation. “I’m confident we can set up a structure that will work for all stakeholders,” said Mr. Bell.  The Council of the Haida Nation has expressed support for the community forest and will have to be involved for the project to move forward. Mr. Bell would like to hear from people in the forestry industry with any ideas or suggestions on how the project should move ahead.The MIEDS board meeting is scheduled for the end of July; decisions on what is the best choice to move forward with will be decided then.

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