by Alex Rinfret-Islanders should know within two weeks whether the $24-million South Moresby Forest Replacement Account will continue to exist.
Gwaii Trust representative Warren Foster says the SMFRA situation is changing quickly, with the federal Treasury Board set to make a decision about the fund’s future on March 1.
SMFRA, which has handed out money to forestry-related projects on the islands for the past several years, will expire on March 31 unless Ottawa decides otherwise.
The Gwaii Trust has been lobbying to have the fund, now controlled by the federal and provincial governments, transferred to the islands, where it would be controlled by a board of local representatives.
“It is moving very quickly,” Mr. Foster told the Moresby Island Management Committee Wednesday night (Feb. 14) in Sandspit. “We’re in correspondence with a provincial lawyer over the mechanism that could allow the money to come to usÂ… It appears, although we thought this before many times over the years, that we may end up with the SMFRA funds.”
Mr. Foster said the details have not been fully worked out and all his information is preliminary.
However, it looks like federal bureaucrats are demanding some strings be attached to the money before they hand it over to the islands. That means the Gwaii Forest Fund will not look exactly as islanders had imagined when they developed a society and business plan for it, Mr. Foster said, although it will be similar.
“We’ve been told it’s this or nothing,” he said. “Now we need a strategy to make sure the communities are up to speed on the changes.”
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