Plans to start afresh and move forward

McBride Community Forest Public Meeting

Allan Frederick

On Wed. evening, Sept. 30 approximately 100 local area residents attended the McBride Community Forest (MCFC) Public Meeting at the Robson Valley Community Centre.

The agenda for the meeting was presented by McBride Mayor and Chair of the MCFC Loranne Martin, along with introductions of the evening’s presenters: Susan Mulkey, Manager, Communications & Extension of the British Columbia Community Forest Association (BCCFA); and Jeff McWilliams, BSF and RPF of B. A. Blackwell and Associates. Appearing via Skype from their Vancouver office were Bruce Blackwell, Principal of B. A. Blackwell and Associates, and Acting Prince George Forestry District Manager Jim Sayle available via telephone to take questions.

Following the introductions, Susan Mulkey provided a moderator’s introduction for the evening’s agenda outline. Mulkey brings with her twenty years of experience within the community forest sector.

Mulkey stated that the team has received a lot of feedback and input from the residents of the community, which has been very informative and passionate.

“Tonight is about starting to move forward,” said Mulkey, who expressed that they were pleased with the input to date. They will be continuing to get feedback via written submissions, and a questionnaire was made available at the meeting.

McWilliams indicated that they have been hired to do two things; first, to review the performance of the MCFC and also to provide some interim advice to move MCFC forward in the absence of a manager. Blackwell had been looking at local feedback over the past seven days, carrying out site and field reviews and meeting with local area folks about the MCFC. B. A. Blackwell & Associates is working on what they know as well as any further information. A lot of research is yet to be done.

McWilliams provided a review of the Community Forest overcut position, indicating that within the present five-year cycle, running from 2012 to 2016 inclusive, there appears to be issues. Indications are that from the years 2012 to 2014 the MCFC is 93,000 cubic metres over the annual allowable cut of 150,000, with a total being quoted at 243,000 cubic metres. There are allowances to be overcut by ten per cent with possible penalties being applied for any overcut above the ten percent. In addition, if an overcut position is identified, there must be adjustments in the future years to realign the cycle cut volume.

The audit team has recommended that the MCFC apply to have their five-year cycle restarted as of Jan. 1, 2015 through the Ministry office in Prince George.

“Not another stick should be cut within the community forest until this issue is resolved,” said McWilliams. Even with the restart of the cycle there needs to be adjustments in the next five-year cycle; therefore 50,000 cubic metres will now be set to approximately 34,000 for each year of the revised cycle to correct the overcut of the past.

They are continuing to work on the numbers regarding waste assessment, as there is a substantial charge from 2012 to the community forest at around 34,000 cubic metres of waste. This may still be an outstanding issue with the Ministry and Blackwell is trying to determine if the government has adjusted as they have waived the waste assessment amount which may reduced the overcut volume. Negotiations related to Grade 4 Cedar exemption for 2014 of 8,000 cubic metres may also help to reduce the overcut volume. There is the potential to have the overall overcut from 93,000 to 51,000 cubic metres.

Blackwell feels that the MCFC needs to have existing planning reviewed prior to any restarting of harvesting within the community forest.

McWilliams indicated that they are not satisfied with any site and block layouts that are presently being considered for harvesting. There is not a lot of development being done, which is a significant issue for the future of MCFC.

A performance review, which is not yet complete, is being conducted on planning practices and site plans. A reserve infraction was discovered in an active block and reported to the Board, which was then reported to the Forest Ministry.

McWilliams indicated that they have also received feedback from the local mill owners and contractors working in the community forest, and they have discussed the need for cut control and the need for cedar for a mill. 

With the upcoming winter harvesting season approaching, the experts are trying to work on coordinating their efforts with the needs of local cedar mill owners and contractors. They are also looking to review the Carrier licence deal that is pending but haven’t had the time as yet to explore the deal in detail and are striving to get up to speed. They are working on getting information and moving forward. McWilliams indicated that the work ahead will be a challenge and will take some months to complete.

Mulkey then made a presentation on Governance Best Practices and the collective best practices for community forests. Best practices are the professional procedures based on experience and research and are the most effective way to conduct business. Mulkey spoke about the best practices that help a business succeed and move forward. The presentation will be available on the MCFC website in the near future.

Reviewing of the social, environmental, and sustainable issues should be done every three to five years in order to ensure that the direction and conduct of the business is still in line with objectives of the community. Collective lessons from other community forests involved in the BCCFA were shared with the audience to show how other community forests are performing.

Mayor Martin then described the next steps, including asking the community for input in terms of what they want to see in the MCFC, and to work through those difficult conversations regarding the community forest. When complete the report to the Board will be made public to view their recommendations as well as the status of the pending Carrier licence deal. 

There was an open question and answer period following the presentation which included topics on the timing of the upcoming timber supply reviews, potential logging in areas like Goat River, board feedback as to both the current and future structure, and waste assessment. The Carrier licence deal will be reviewed and evaluated by B. A. Blackwell as to whether the deal is beneficial for the community.

The public will be consulted throughout this process.