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Whistler, First Nations invited to apply for Community Forest

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Whistler is one step closer to getting into the forestry business with neighbouring First Nations.

The three partners — the resort municipality of Whistler, Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation — have been invited to submit an application for a Probationary Community Forest Agreement from the provincial minister of forests and range, Rich Coleman.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Heather Beresford, environmental stewardship manager with the municipality.

“It’s been a long time coming.”

The formal letter inviting the partners to apply arrived Feb. 14. They now have 150 days to submit their application to the province.

The municipality has been working on the project since April 2005.

“Were very confident that we’ll get it,” said Beresford, adding that the partnership with First Nations is a very strong working relationship.

The partners are working with the non-profit organization Ecotrust Canada to custom design an ecosystem-based management forestry plan with a sustainable harvest level that will not harm sensitive habitat or destroy viewscapes, scenery and Aboriginal cultural values. The operation will harvest trees surrounding Whistler.

While the forestry industry in B.C. is facing many challenges right now, Beresford said their intent is to create a thriving business.

“We are not going to be operating at a loss,” she said.

Any profits will be funneled back into the business.

Community forests are intended to stimulate long-term employment, forest-related education and skills training, as well as other social, environmental and economic benefits, while meeting environmental stewardship standards. After the initial term of five years, the agreements may be extended for another five years or replaced with a 25-year long-term agreement.

Last month the province awarded probationary community forest agreements to Slocan, Nakusp, Kaslo and Houston.

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