Community forests now have a chance to expand, following changes announced by the province on May 25.
The announcement came as more than 150 delegates gathered in Burns Lake for the BC Community Forest Association’s (BCCFA) conference and annual general meeting, which took place May 24-26.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson made the announcement during a keynote address at the convention.
He said that changes to the laws and regulations governing forests would enable expansions beginning immediately, prompting applause from the crowd.
“We want to ensure that we’re providing a strong economic base for rural communities,” he said, adding that the amendments would allow community forest operators to create more jobs.
Community forests will be allowed to expand “provided there is available area,” according to a government medial release.
Expansions of more than 100 hectares will involve a thorough process requiring engagement with the public, according to the statement, while a simplified process will apply to smaller expansions.
Erik Leslie, president of the BCCFA, welcomed the changes in the media release, saying the reforms were implemented “after full consultation with those affected.”
Community forests allow various groups — including First Nations, local governments, community groups and community-held corporations — to manage Crown land on a long-term basis. The arrangements are meant to provide jobs and support local economies.