Community forest makes formal pitch for expansion

Cites benefits of more local control of forest resource

The Dungate Community Forest has a plan to expand its area of operations into a portion of the Morice Mountain Recreation Area. (District of Houston illustration)

The Dungate Community Forest has formally asked the provincial government for a larger percentage of the local timber volume, saying increased local control will provide employment, more economic activity and increase and safeguard outdoor recreational amenities.

“An expansion will help us invest more in the community and help us become more independent in shaping our future,” said Greg Yeomans who speaks for the community forest.

“We are just asking for 1 per cent of the Morice Timber Supply in the expansion.”

Dungate now has a harvest level of 29,000 cubic metres a year but will lose 4,000 cubic feet to satisfy moves to safeguard old growth and to provide land for mountain goats.

“The expansion will support between 14,000 to 15,000 cubic metres for a combined harvest of 40,000 cubic metres per year,” outlined Yeomans in the goal set by the community forest which is 99 per cent owned by the District of Houston.

An expansion granted by the provincial government would continue the philosophy behind the provincial government years ago of creating community forests in the first place and that is to provide for a local say and participation in how harvesting is conducted and how revenues are distributed.

The application was signed by board members of the community forest at its annual general meeting May 11 and backed up the night before by a support letter from the District of Houston.

“Houston has lost a big sawmill, mines and a [forest] district office. We don’t have a hospital and lack other administrative offices to generate employment. We even have less proportional volume in community forests than adjacent communities as well,” said Yeomans in bolstering the community forest’s reasoning.

Also key to Dungate’s expansion plan is a way for protection of the Morice Mountain recreation area which has become a popular outdoor recreation area, something Yeomans says is no lacking in the way the province approves of forestry activity.

“We feel under a community forest we can use smaller scale recreation friendly harvesting practices to protect special values in the area. We have written this into our proposed management objectives,” said Yeomans.

Dungate has spent the last several years preparing its application, gathering information and support from the community.

Even without a formal application to consider, the provincial government has said consistently told the community forest all of the annual allowable cut within the Morice Timber Supply Area (TSA) has been allocated.

But Yeomans said the province does have the ways and means to meet the community forest’s goals.

“They could take from BC Timber sales but they don’t want to because they feel the local business unit doesn’t have enough volume,” he said. “There are new changes to the Forest Act (Part 15) that will allow the government to designate a Special Purpose Area. This will facilitate a transfer to the community forest.”

The community forest’s profits are distributed in the area in two streams — grants to community groups and an annual dividend to its majority owner, the District of Houston.

Annual payments to the District vary depending upon markets for its wood and the District policy has been to assign that money for specific purposes and not have it absorbed into its general operating budget.