Community forest continues to pursue expansion

Business plan would have it take in Morice Mountain Recreation Area

Map shows area of Dungate Community Forest’s expansion plan. (Dungate Community Forest illustration)

The Dungate Community Forest is taking its plan to enlarge its annual allowable cut to Houston and area residents in hopes of gathering support as it continues to press the provincial government for approval.

With the District of Houston as the majority owner of the community forest, its expansion plan fits with the District’s long-standing vision to secure a wood supply stabilizing employment and providing revenues for community projects.

That vision was accelerated in 2014 when the West Fraser-owned Houston Forest Products sawmill closed, resulting in both job loss and property tax loss to the District.

That closure was part of a business deal with Canfor which saw it close a mill in Quesnel with Canfor then acquiring West Fraser’s timber rights in the Houston area and West Fraser acquiring Canfor’s timber rights in the Quesnel area.

The expansion proposal would see the community forest take in the Morice Mountain Recreation Area for both economic and wildlife and wildfire protection benefits.

“Community forests are a unique tenure model that provides communities with greater input and control over local forest management. This would allow the public greater power to protect Houston’s Naturally Amazing! recreation areas in addition to increases in revenue and funding to be redistributed into our community,” a release from Dungate and the District indicates.

“By including the Morice Mountain Recreation Area, small scale and recreation-focused operations would be implemented with community input, along with greater wildfire protection measures.”

For its part, the District of Houston has been pressing provincial officials to approve of a plan to enlarge the community forest’s annual allowable cut, including representations made by council last year at the Union of BC Municipalities convention.

Although sympathetic, the province has repeatedly said all of the annual allowable cut available surrounding Houston has been allocated and the prospect of more timber is best pursued by having other licence holders relinquish some of their timber rights.

And it has been less sympathetic to the prospect of the community forest enlarging its area by taking in a two-kilometre zone outside of Houston identified as an “urban wildfire management interface zone,” saying the forests, lands, natural resources operations and rural development ministry should be involved in taking out forest fuels and not having the task downloaded to municipalities.

But the community forest has pointed out that its current annual cut is proportionately smaller within the Morice Timber Supply Area than is the case with other community forests.

“This proposal brings us closer to an equal share for our community,” the community forest states.

The Dungate Community Forest took its current shape in 2008 with the District purchasing a 99 per cent ownership stake for $99. The remaining 1 per cent is held by the Houston Community Forest Inc.

Its current annual allowable cut is 29,000 cubic metres.

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