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Burns Lake ComFor harvests dividends, donations update

BL Community Forest pays off for community
The revenues this year from the Burns Lake Community Forest were shared equally by the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation, and Village of Burns Lake. They split just over $3.1-million. (Burns Lake Community Forest Facebook photo/Lakes District News)

Community benefits grew in Burns Lake’s community forest throughout 2022. The organization that operates the civically owned tract of timber - known by provincial license number K1A - just held their annual general meeting and reported on a strong year.

The community forest’s (ComFor or BLCF) directors’ table is comprised of community members at large, plus representatives from the stakeholder communities that receive dividends from the proceeds of the annual operations. Those are all local governments: Village of Burns Lake, Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN), Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (TKKFN).

The Village of Burns Lake’s appointees from the public are Crystal Fisher, Johnny Janzen and Paul Davidson while the TKKFN’s appointee is Ryan Tibbets, the WFN’s appointee is Tara William and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en’s appointee is Ron Mitchell.

“The board of directors only saw one change from last year and that was the Office of the Wet’suwet’en appointee, Ron Mitchell. The rest are returning board members,” said chair Crystal Fisher.

While having Mitchell - his hereditary chief name is Hagwilnegh - join the board is reason for celebration, the reasons for the opportunity were tragic.

“We suffered the great loss of Chief Madeek (known also as Jeff Brown) during this past fiscal year which left a large hole in our board and made it more important than ever for us to lean on each other,” said Fisher. “Chief Madeek represented the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and was Burns Lake Community Forest’s longest standing board member. His guidance and teachings in regards to first nations reconciliation and the Wet’suwet’en territory and culture were critical in achieving our most important goals. We are excited for the future, working with Ron Mitchell as we move forward.”

The entire list of contributions and dividends is available in the complete annual report (link available RIGHT HERE in the online version of this story or on the ComFor website). In summary, the donations to community amounted to a total of $351,714.85.

Twenty per cent of that went to youth sports, 17 per cent went to recreation initiatives, 42 per cent to service clubs, plus a number of scholarships and community contributions.

The largest single contribution was to the Ride Burns Mountain Biking Association ($49,720), with trails interfacing with the community forest thus making for a true partnership. Another significant donation was $30,000 for a new refuelling station at the airport. The Lakes District Fall Fair received a $28,000 grant while The Link Family Enhancement Society received $34,000 for a food security program.

The forest provided 159,000 cubic metres of harvested wood, this year (they could have gone as high as 194,000) as they work to the provincial government’s 10-year allowance of 1.9-million cubic metres from their licensed area.

According to Comfor’s general manager Frank Varga, “Approximately 131,578 hours of employment were generated by the community forest this fiscal year. That calculates to 63 full-time equivalents.”

They also planted more than 1.23-million seedlings for future generations. BLCF’s seedlings were a mix of spruce, pine, fir and larch species.

While fiscal 2021/2022 came with several challenges for the BLCF board of directors, it is getting through these challenges as a solid team that makes us resilient, innovative and passionate about the jobs we are doing,” said Fisher.

“Alongside the challenges came some really great wins such as our first ever prescribed burn and an increase in interest from the community to be a part of the board of directors. This shows how effective our communication strategy is and that residents of the K1A license are invested in their community forest. It is my pleasure to serve my community for another year as president of the board of directors for the Burns Lake Community Forest. While the job may not be for the faint of heart, I take pride in the work we do on the land base and truly believe that we are provincial leaders in forest management.”

The open house and barbecue that was scheduled for July 20 at the BLCF office at 153 Francois Lake Drive has been canceled this year due to the wildfires.