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Whistler’s proposal for a community forest was not among the first four community forest pilot sites announced this week by Forests Minister David Zirnhelt. However, Zirnhelt promised more community forest projects would be chosen in the coming weeks as part of the government’s forest action plan to promote diversification in the province’s changing forest sector. Whistler was attracted to the community forest proposal because it originally seemed to present an opportunity to manage the local forest and all its competing activities, including logging, commercial backcountry operations, tourism and gravel extraction. Currently these areas are managed by different ministries or different departments within ministries. Whistler’s proposal for a community forest is one of only 27 applications that was received by the Ministry of Forests in January. Early indications, several months ago, were that Whistler was one of the front-runners. However, Whistler submitted a proposal which takes a holistic approach to forest and ecosystem management and asks for greater control of all forest resources than the ministry has indicated it may be willing to give up. The Whistler plan has the support of the Lil’wat Nation and Western Forest Products, the company with the largest annual timber harvest in the area. But the District of Squamish had indicated its lack of support for the plan, which calls for a reduction in the annual harvest rate from its present 62,000 cubic metres to approximately 30,000 cubic metres, or 60 hectares, per year. Bill Barratt, director of parks and recreation for the municipality, and forestry advisor Don MacLaurin will be discussing Whistler’s community forest proposal at the Whistler Chamber of Commerce luncheon June 16. Although the pilot program initially called for three projects, Zirnhelt announced four pilot sites with a commitment for more in the coming weeks. The first four successful proposals are: o Bamfield/Huu-ay-aht Community Forest Society which proposed 418 ha of Crown land next to the communities of Bamfield and Ana’cla; o District of Fort St. James, which proposed 3,583 ha of Crown land next to the community of Fort St. James; o Village of Burns Lake, which proposed 19,862 ha of Crown land next to the community of Burns Lake; and o Esketemc First Nation, which proposed 15,000 ha of Crown land and 2,500 ha of Native reserve land next to the community of Alkali Lake, 50 km south of Williams Lake. A subcommittee of the community forest advisory committee evaluated proposals based on criteria developed by the committee. These evaluations guided the forest minister’s decision. The criteria included community involvement, administrative authority and structure, as well as stewardship and management objectives. Before awarding any of the tenures, the ministry will hold open houses or community meetings to verify that public, First Nation and stakeholder concerns have been addressed. The term of the pilots is five years, after which the communities may be eligible for a long-term agreement of 25 to 99 years.

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