In August 2011 a partnership between the Village of Granisle and Lake Babine Nation led to the formation of the Babine Lake Community Forest Society, and that society was granted a long-term community forest agreement.
The original agreement for the Babine Lake Community Forest was a 25-year term that granted the right to harvest up to 6088 cubic metres of timber per year from an area of 6594 hectares surrounding the Granisle area.
The community forest society request and received an increase to their Allowable Annual Cut (AAC) in October 2013 to help ensure the long-term viability of the community forest operations.
The allowable cut was increased 36 per cent to 10,088 cubic metres of timber per year over 8939 hectares for the term of the agreement.
The Babine Lake Community Forest, which is located in the Morice Timber Supply Area (TSA), which stretches from Babine Lake in the North to Ootsa Lake in the South.
Frederick Clarke, manager of the community forest society said the expanded AAC is helpful because in a given TSA there will be trees that are mature and underdeveloped, so the expanded area allows the society a few more mature trees that they can harvest.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource’s harvest-billing system shows that over the span of the community forest (three years) that 46,584 cubic metres has been harvested.
Clarke said the community forest has logged five years worth of timber from the area, so there will be no income from timber harvest for the next five years.
Therefore the community forest must develop innovative businesses in order to make money and remain viable for the next five years.
“Businesses in the North must be innovative and of good quality,” Clarke said, “That’s what we want to do.”
The focus will be on the manufacturing and exporting of products, according to Clarke, who added as well that innovation has become a buzz word of sorts.
“What we’re looking to do isn’t complicated,” Clarke said, “We want to improve on existing ideas.”
He said that the forestry business is limited to big business in terms of mills, or retail, there is little opportunity for someone, who for example, would like to sell handmade furniture.
“There’s a very thin line for people that are manufacturing and exporting products,” Clarke said, “To get it started you sometimes ante up $75,000 and that can stop people in there tracks, so innovation can be hard.”
It has been difficult moving forward due to the small amount of income that the community forest has, but the society has kept pushing forward with its ideas for innovation.
Clarke is unsure just how much money the community forest has made from the harvested timber, which was sold to the CanFor mill in Houston, because the community forest still has to go through the silviculture process of replanting the harvested trees.
Clarke said that typically the range that the community forest is looking at is a 12-13 per cent surplus if they are lucky.
Based on approximate timber prices, after deducting the costs for logging, hauling, road maintenance, stumpage, silviculture and administrative work, the Babine Lake Community Forest could make $10 per cubic metre, or $465,840 in total for the amount of timber that they have harvested.
Chief Wilf Adam of Lake Babine Nation, one of the society’s partners, which has two members on the board of directors and has one member as the co-chair agrees that there are challenges, but that the community forest is working.
“The community forest project is a working process at the moment, but it is working,” Adam said, “We have challenges, but we’re working through it. It’s a start and we’re making the effort to make it work.”