By Heather Ramsay-The local Forest Service is taking steps to reach out to the community for the first time in several years, starting with a series of meetings in each community of the islands.
District manager Len Munt started his tour in Queen Charlotte at the April 2 council meeting.
He told councillors that he is now in his fourth year as the top decision maker in the Queen Charlotte Islands Forest District. In that time he has wanted to start a dialogue with communities, but “it’s taken this long to get my feet grounded,” he said.
He said the islands have the most complex issues of any place he’s worked in 20 years.
Not only that, but when he arrived, his staff was cut by 40 per cent from 60 people in the “blue building on the hill” to 24 with the Queen Charlotte Islands Forest District and 10 staff with the BC Timber Sales Program.
He’d like to see more positive interaction between the forest service and the community and has taken some small steps in that direction.
First, Mr. Munt has given graduate students from the University of Toronto and the University of BC the chance to work on the islands during the summer.
The district also started hiring high school students for on-the-job summer training and now offers two scholarships to students intending to take resource management at a post-secondary institution.
Mr. Munt requires all registered foresters in the district to visit a local classroom once a year and has also asked his staff to donate half an hour a week to help tutor high school students.
He has also designated Jevan Hanchard in a newly-created position, community forester. Mr. Hanchard is the community contact for the public, he said.
A similar First Nations outreach position exists and Ricardo Toledo is the new aboriginal liaison officer.
Other initiatives include cleaning up areas near the district office.
Mr. Munt said the district spent $11,000 cleaning up the dryland sort and the Honna connector road, as well as improving the pull out on the Honna connector near Tarundl Creek.
Kagan Bay dryland sort is closed to industrial activity to allow rehabilitation of the area, but Mr. Munt envisions large campers using the area in the future.
In other forestry-related news, Mr. Munt says the Forest and Range Practices Act has now completely replaced the old Forest Practices Code. This new forestry legislation leaves the responsibility to manage the landscape and the forest resource up to the licensees. The province has specific results it expects, but how licensees achieve them is up to their professional expertise.
This shifts the role for Forest Service staff, in that they are now monitoring what licensees are doing rather than outright managing themselves, he said.
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