A historic first step was made late last month when six governments came together to discuss how to best advance a Community Forest Agreement (CFA) in the Quesnel Timber Supply Area.
Representatives from the governments of Lhtako Dené, Nazko, Lhoosk’uz, ?Esdilagh, the City of Quesnel and the Cariboo Regional District, along with staff from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and the BC Community Forest Association (BCCFA) met June 24 to discuss next steps in the community forest process.
The need to manage the surrounding landscape for long-term forest health and community resiliency has never been more critical, the group said.
Recent mill closures, the dramatic reduction in the annual allowable cut, increased incidences of forest pests, and the unprecedented wildfires and floods have all underscored the need to ensure greater community resiliency through a CFA. Mayor Bob Simpson stated from the City of Quesnel’s perspective that “City Council passed a formal resolution around community forest aspirations that states any revenue obtained will be re-invested back into the land base.”
At the June 24 meeting, participants shared their visions and aspirations for a CFA, which include: employment, economic development, reinvesting in the local communities, promoting better fibre utilization, wildfire protection, protecting all ecosystem values, and working collaboratively toward sustainable forest management.
“All our communities benefit when co-operation and relationship building take top priority,” said Cariboo Regional District chair Margo Wagner. “Joint initiatives such as this are key building blocks in the reconciliation process, giving us the opportunity to develop collaborative processes and deliver real-world results at the same time.”
The governments present at the meeting expressed interest in engaging with MFLNRORD to advance the CFA application. The next step is for ministry staff to co-ordinate an official invitation from the Minister of Forests; the anticipated timeline for the invitation is during autumn 2020.
In the meantime, the various interested governments will collaborate on forming a working group to define the collective governance structure, scope out the community engagement process, define key priorities, and work with Ministry staff on determining the location of the community forest. This work in advance of receiving a letter of invitation is to make the process seamless for when the official invite arrives.
Chief Stuart Alec of Nazko First Nation shared a closing statement from the SDNA agreement, “together we will fix it,” as a guiding testament to a potential community forest, noting together the communities in the Quesnel area are facing adversity and, together, can work on finding collaborative solutions.