More timber access for Burns Lake Community Forest

Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced an expansion to the Burns Lake Community Forest.

Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced an expansion to the Burns Lake Community Forest (BLComfor) recently.

The expansion will allow BLComfor access to timber resources near Ling Lake, which is approximately 25 kilometres Northeast of Burns Lake.

According to the ministry, the expansion agreement was completed last month when Lakes Timber Health and Salvage received final approval to transfer its 5,400 hectare community salvage license, with an allowable annual cut of 25,000 cubic metres, to BLComfor.

The decision to transfer the salvage license was made by Lakes Timber Health and Salvage due to the severe mountain pine beetle infestation in the local area, which has made small scale salvage impractical and not economically viable.

Marvin Strimbold and Bob Murray from Lakes Timber Health and Salvage said to Lakes District News that the decision was made to transfer the salvage license to BLComfor with the community in mind.

It was the only community salvage license in B.C. and was successful, however Strimbold said that a number of legislative changes had to be made if their operation was to continue.

Strimbold went on the say that because Lakes Timber Health and Salvage held the only community salvage license in B.C. it wasn’t very likely that legislative changes would have been made. “We worked very hard to make the transfer happen,” Strimbold said.

He said that credit also needs to be given to the 48 small scale salvage clients that operated throughout the district. “The salvagers supported us in initiating the Lakes Timber Health and Salvage group. We held the license since 2005 but these changes had to happen. There was also changes to the economy,” he said.

Murray said the transfer of the license to BLComfor is a $2.5 million opportunity. “If we didn’t transfer the license the 25,000 cubic metres would have disappeared into no mans land.”

“We did this with a sense of community spirit,” Strimbold said.

Both Murray and Strimbold said they hope BLComfor decides to use the salvage license as an opportunity to create a local training opportunity.

“In conjunction with the College of New Caledonia, we had hoped to have a ‘living classroom’ … a classroom in the bush for hands on learning,” Strimbold said.

BLComfor now has this opportunity. It is just up to the new mayor and council and the board of BLComfor to move forward with the idea.

“It would be a great opportunity for the town and would put people back to work,” Murray said.

He went on to say that currently small scale logging is classroom based and uses simulators. “A gap exists. If we get people out in a living classroom they get the chance to experience a full operational scenario.”

Murray and Strimbold said Lakes Timber Health and Salvage continue operations in other areas and are still working with CORE Biofuels to construct a biofuel plant in Houston. “We are still looking at other ways of having a different type of license. I think the community salvage license was a very successful program,” Strimbold added.

The additional 5,400 hectares of Crown forest brings BLComfor’s total area to nearly 91,500 hectares, with an allowed annual harvest of up to 260,000 cubic metres

BLComfor president Quentin Beach said, “We’re pleased the ministry has seen fit to add this area to the Burns Lake Community Forest. We will manage [it] for the benefit of the entire community and in a manner that enhances the forest resource while respecting the principles of integrated use, environmental stewardship and public consultation.”

Beach went on to say that the benefits of a community forest tenure is two fold.

“The public has a say in how the forest is managed in their own backyard and the benefits or profits derived from the community forest tenure stay in the community”

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad said, “Burns Lake was one of the first communities to benefit from a community forest agreement. Expanding their operating area will enable Burns Lake to enjoy continued success creating forestry jobs and generating revenue to address local priorities.”