The Cheakamus Community Forest is looking to increase timber harvesting slightly above the annual average this summer to partially compensate for last season when the organization harvested just over a third of their annual allowable cut.
The reason for the low harvest, according to Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) chair Peter Ackhurst, was a combination of factors out of Whistler's control.
"What happened last year is that the market went down and we had trouble finding logging contractors," said Ackhurst. "We decided not to log and wait for the market to come up, and the market has gone way up since then."
The CCF released its annual report this week, describing operations for the past year as well as plans for the future. They are also hosting a public open house April 9 to share the harvesting plans for 2013 with the public, as well as to get feedback on provincial plans to decommission roads in the 30,000 hectare tenure area.
With almost no logging the first few years since Whistler and its partners obtained the community forest, followed by less than 16,000 cubic metres harvested in 2011 and just 7,195 cu.m harvested in 2012, Ackhurst acknowledged that the CCF is well behind provincial expectations. Current management plans specify that an average of roughly 20,000 cubic metres must be harvested per year over five years in the community forest. However, Ackhurst said he doesn't believe that the province will step in at this point to allocate the forest tenure to other companies.
"It's a 25-year renewable licence, and as long as we do a good job it will be there forever," he said. "(The province) will review our performance after 25 years, but every five years we have to submit a new Forest Management Plan (where the annual allowable cut is established).
"I think we're quite far behind," he added. As for what that means, Ackhurst said the province does have the power to take a tenure back if terms of the licence are not being met.
"We might lose (the tenure) back to the forest service, and they have the option of having their own timber sale in there, but I don't think they will," he said. "They understand that everybody has been undercut in the markets, and if you can't sell your wood (for a good price) then the government is not going to force you to lose money. It's pretty similar here to what's happened across the rest of the coast. But if we weren't doing anything in a good market, then it wouldn't be good."
Unlike most commercial tenures, the CCF — a non-profit society and partnership between the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and both Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations — is committed to planning forestry operations with stakeholders. Their plans try to accommodate recreational tenure holders, backcountry user groups (such as mountain biking, hiking and backcountry skiing), cultural interests, viewpoints, visibility, resource industries, crown corporations and other interests using the community forest, which can complicate the planning process. However, Ackhurst said that level of consultation is the reason why Whistler applied for a community forest in the first place.