An event held at Babine Forest Products last week marked the official start of operations at Burns Lake’s newest community forest, the Chinook Community Forest.
Chinook is a partnership between two local governments and six First Nations communities.
During the event, speakers highlighted how partnerships such as Chinook will be vital in the future as timber supply is reduced in the B.C. Interior. Over the next decade, the provincial annual allowable cut is expected to decline by more than 13 million cubic metres per year.
Bill Miller, Chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako and Director of Electoral Area B, said that looking at the next decade, partnerships such as Chinook will be vital in order for communities to survive.
Even though there are concerns about the impending timber supply shortage, Steve Zika, Chief Executive Officer of Hampton Affiliates – company that owns Babine Forest Products and Decker Lake Forest Products -, said he was confident about the future.
“I feel really good about what’s happening,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, a tough way to go, the timber is going to keep getting less, so we’ve got to be creative and show that partnerships with First Nations, community, private-interest groups and government are needed to make it happen.”
“We want Chinook to be the model of community saw-milling throughout the province,” he continued.
Zika added that Burns Lake’s newest community forest says a lot about the resilience and cooperativeness of the Burns Lake community. He highlighted how the community has worked together to recover from the mill explosion of 2012 that killed two workers and injured 20 others.
“A lot of people suffered in that period, but instead of quitting, and saying, ‘That’s enough, it’s too hard,’ people didn’t quit and had the courage to fight back and the courage to reinvest even though timber supply is challenging here.”
“Working on this community forest symbolizes our communities working together; we wouldn’t be here today without that community involvement.”
Ministry of Forests staff present at the event called the Chinook Community Forest a “strong and innovative partnership.”
The Chinook Community Forest started when stakeholders at Hampton Affiliates were deciding whether or not to move forward with the rebuilding of Babine Forest Products after the 2012 explosion.
One of the main concerns back then was the amount of timber available to supply the mill. The stakeholders stated that, to justify a rebuild, enough timber in the Lakes timber supply area needed to be available. The need for enough timber to supply the mill led local officials to propose to the provincial government that a second community forest be added to the area.
Chinook will run with the same legal structure as the Burns Lake Community Forest and an annual allowable cut (AAC) of 150,000 cubic metres per year. After 2020, the AAC will reduced to 65,000.
Greig Bethel, a spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, said the anticipated reduction in AAC for the Chinook Community Forest, as well as for all other forest licences in the area, is a reflection of the decline in timber supply because of the mountain pine beetle infestation.
” The [Babine Forest Products] mill was rebuilt to a smaller size to also reflect the expected decline in timber supply,” said Bethel.