Community forests allowed to expand: Donaldson

Change meant to boost rural economies

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.

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Ken Nielson, general manager of Chinook Community Forest, addressed delegates on the first day of the BC Community Forest Association conference in Burns Lake. (David Gordon Koch)

Shane Berg, deputy chief forester for B.C. and executive director of the office of the chief forester, spoke about declines in the annual allowable cut due to wildfire and the pine beetle. (David Gordon Koch photo)

Ian Meier, director of operations for the BC Wildfire Service, said that while the 2017 wildfire season was unprecedented, this year could be on track to surpass it. Flooding and wildfires last year triggered a 10-week state of emergency and displaced more than 65,000 people. (David Gordon Koch photo)

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