Feedback is being sought on a proposed community forest by the City of Quesnel and four First Nations, including Lhtako Dené, Nazko, ?Esdilagh and Lhoosk’uz Dené.
An application for the project — Three Rivers Community Forest located within the Quesnel Timber Supply Area and the Cariboo Forest Region — is anticipated to be submitted to B.C.’s Ministry of Forests by December 2022 for approval.
A decision is expected next year.
An open house inviting individuals to learn more about the proposed community forest, followed by a community meeting, was held Monday, Oct. 3, at the Quesnel Seniors’ Centre.
“Hearing that feedback allows us to tweak the application that’s going to eventually go into government,” said meeting facilitator and forester Mike Simpson.
An online survey is open until Monday, Oct. 24.
City of Quesnel Forestry Initiatives manager Erin Robinson said community forests support opportunities such as recreation, wildfire resiliency, wildlife and watershed management, and First Nation partnerships.
There are currently 60 across B.C.
“Community forests contribute to a more diversified forest economy and provide a source of revenue to local priorities and community initiatives,” Robinson said.
“It’s a long-term agreement with 25 years for operating and is renewable every ten years. The idea is to have something going much past our children’s children.”
In November 2019, the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) announced a new sharing agreement, called apportionment, for the Quesnel Timber Supply Area (TSA), which included 75,000 cubic metres set aside for a new community forest.
Discussions have remained ongoing with partners identified and confirmed along with seven guiding principles, such as integrating Western knowledge with First Nations cultural and traditional ecological knowledge and seeking innovative approaches in all operational and management-related decisions.
Simpson said a public survey was launched in March 2022 that received 110 responses, 80 per cent of whom identified the importance of a community forest.
Referral and consultation letters were issued early July to tenure holders in the planned area extending north of the City of Quesnel to the Fraser River and as far south as Dragon Mountain. In the east, the proposed Three Rivers Community Forest extends to the Quesnel River and extends beyond Hangman’s Trail network in the west.
Simpson noted lots of feedback regarding wildfire hazards, recreational opportunities and overlap with BC Timber Sales.
“A lot of it was around concerns from the range community,” Simpson added, stressing the proposed area is not final.
At the community meeting Sage Gordon, president of the Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association, spoke of garbage being dumped on range and non-fenced private property, as well as cattle being chased by dogs and off-road vehicles.
He said ranchers cannot afford to lose any animals, including cows that have lost their unborn calves after being chased.
“For most of the ranchers around here, biodiversity is something we work at — we need it. We use our cattle grazing to manage fire protection,” Gordon added. “Our biggest concern is biosecurity and recreationers in the area.”
Lhtako Dene Nation forestry consultant Jean Christie noted, in the same way as other licensees, proponents will have future consultations with stakeholders.
“When we’re talking specific road permits, cutting permits, I think that’s when we’ll be having more of those discussions in terms of access management and trying to work with you to protect those values,” Christie said.
For more information on the proposed Three Rivers Community Forest go to www.threeriverscomfor.ca.
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