Burns Lake is taking steps to prepare for a possible loss of economic activity when the annual allowable cut of the Burns Lake Community Forest (BLCF) drops to 63,000 cubic metres in 2020.
After 2020, the BLCF and the Chinook Community Forest will represent only a portion of the log supply required to keep Babine Forest Products and Decker Lake Forest Products operating.
“If we don’t start those conversations now, we’ll just be reacting as opposed to being proactive,” said Sheryl Worthing, Burns Lake’s Chief Administrative Officer.
Burns Lake council met with minister of jobs Shirley Bond in Victoria last month to discuss ways that Burns Lake can stay ahead of the game.
One of the ideas suggested by the minister was for Burns Lake to apply for the B.C. rural dividend fund, a grant that helps rural communities diversify and strengthen their economies.
Worthing said the village will apply a “planning funding” under the B.C. rural dividend fund, which would allow a facilitator to come to Burns Lake and work with community leaders to try to find ways to address the impeding shorfall in timber supply.
One of the ideas is to create a task force – involving community leaders and industry – to discuss ways to diversify the local economy.
“The task force would try to answer questions like, ‘Do we start to look at agriculture, tourism, or both of them? What are our assets in the community that we can use to start to diversify [the economy] and get moving the projects that we already have?’”
Representatives from the Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Jobs were recently in Burns Lake providing information to village staff about the B.C. rural dividend fund. Worthing said both ministries were supportive of the idea of Burns Lake creating a task force.
Worthing said plans will be better defined as the village moves forward with its grant application, which is due on Oct. 31, 2016.
“Once we’ve done that, we will fight for the next phase, which involves a $500,000 grant and a partnership with other organizations such as the Regional District [of Bulkley-Nechako] to potentially start something new in the community.”