Community forest promotes sustainability

While managing the Burns Lake Community Forest (BLComfor) remains a challenge, local residents can rest assured.

While managing the Burns Lake Community Forest (BLComfor) remains a challenge, local residents can rest assured that their community-owned forest corporation has clearly defined objectives, strong reforestation policies and a sustainable harvesting plan.

That’s the word from Dawn Stronstad, manager of BLComfor, the company responsible for managing the 92,326 hectare community forest.

Stronstad made the comments after reviewing auditor general John Doyle’s recent report on the management of B.C.’s public forest lands by the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. In his report, the auditor general concluded that the provincial government’s timber objectives are not clearly defined, and “are insufficient to offset a trend toward future forests having a lower timber supply and less species diversity in some areas.”

“The Burns Lake Community Forest may be located on Crown land, but its management objectives are clearly defined,” stressed Stronstad.

“The Burns Lake Community Forest is being managed for sustainability and in compliance with the five year management plan approved in 2010 and based on a thorough, recent forest inventory. We’re replanting our forests promptly after they’re harvested and managing for a wide range of values.”

While many provincial forest inventories are outdated, management strategies for BLComfor are derived from a detailed inventory conducted between 2006 and 2009. Its aggressive reforestation policy has also resulted in the replanting of 90 per cent of harvested forest lands.

Planting is being postponed in some areas by an additional year to allow recovery of residual fibre.

“Between the years 2000 and 2011, BLComfor harvested 7,422 hectares of forest land,” noted Stronstad.

“Of this total, 6,660 hectares have already been replanted. In the last 11 years, our contractors have put 10 million seedlings in the ground and we intend to plant another 700,000 this spring.”

Stronstad said local residents can rest assured that Crown lands within the community forest are being managed in such a way that residents will continue to realize benefits from them in perpetuity.

“The community forest’s annual allowable cut was set by the government of B.C. utilizing the inventory data collected between 2006 and 2009. The government’s determination was guided by three considerations: a balancing of objectives for all timber and non timber values, maximizing the recovery of timber killed by the mountain pine beetle infestation, and mitigation of mid-term timber supply shortfalls,” Stronstad explained. “As a result, the long-term sustainability of the community forest is not in question.”

The company’s second five-year management plan was approved in 2010, and in February 2011, its annual allowable cut was set at 260,000 cubic meters per year until 2013.