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Whistler needs partners for community forest

Whistler needs partners if it is to increase its chances of getting into the forestry business, according to two forestry consultants.



In a report to council on Monday night two registered professional foresters encouraged the resort municipality to join with the District of Squamish and Squamish First Nation to increase their chances of getting a community forest from the province.

A letter asking Squamish council to partner has been sent to the district by the resort municipality but Whistler has yet to hear back on a decision.

Squamish First Nation has indicated interest in the partnership too.

A partnership with the two groups would make the community forest more economically viable.

"We need to have partners to make it an operation big enough to be financially feasible," said Heather Beresford, stewardship supervisor with the RMOW.

A community forest is any forestry operation managed by a local government, community group, First Nation or community-held corporation for the benefit of the entire community.

The two forestry consultants, Peter Ackhurst and John Hammons, who are contracted to the municipality to investigate opportunities for a community forest, encouraged Whistler to pursue its chances of getting a license.

"Peter and I both think a community forest is very compatible with our (Whistler’s) goals," said RPF John Hammons at the council meeting.

He explained that a community forest would allow Whistler to manage its surrounding environment in a sustainable manner by giving the municipality control of the forestry practices.

For example, instead of clear-cutting Whistler could practice selective removal or explore alternative logging methods. The resort could also combine forestry and recreation planning, and potentially make more wood available to local businesses.

Rather than get involved in the daily operations of logging, the municipality would most likely contract the work out to smaller logging companies in the area and control the overall direction of the logging efforts.

Under the Forestry Revitalization Plan the province withdrew 20 per cent of the wood available to the large forestry companies and reallocated it to community forests.

Ackhurst and Hammons highlighted the areas around Whistler which would best suit a community forest from the municipality’s perspective. They are the areas of the Soo, Whistler and Callaghan watersheds.

The Whistler watershed stretches from the Interpretative Forest opposite Function Junction along the Cheakamus River towards Garibaldi Provincial Park. The Soo area covers the land north east of Whistler around the 19 Mile Creek area. And the Callaghan section includes the Brandywine area and the Callaghan Valley.

Those areas make up 80,000 cubic metres of allowable cut. Only 30,000 cubic metres, however, will be allotted to a community forest in the corridor. The consultants are focusing on those areas in particular because of their proximity to Whistler.

In addition to getting partners in the south on board with a joint proposal, the consultants also suggested that the municipality increase its political involvement in the process.

They also suggested inviting Minister Roger Harris, the minister of state for forestry operations, for a meeting to explain Whistler’s position.

Council was supportive of the direction suggested by the consultants.

Whistler will not pursue a partnership with the Village of Pemberton because Pemberton is applying to the province for its own community forest.

The provincial government launched the community forest program six years ago and at that time received 27 applications from groups across the province. Among those was an application from Whistler, which was rejected.

Only eight communities were given a green light to proceed with logging operations.

Some of the success stories, according to Hammons, are the Mission community forestry and the one in Revelstoke.

The province is expected to make its final decisions on the next round of community forest applications by the end of the year.