B.C.’s northernmost municipality hopes community ownership of forest can bring a community revival

The northernmost municipality in B.C. was once home to companies that made eight million chopsticks daily, produced untold strand boards for housing and sawmills that chopped up the huge swaths of aspen and spruce forests that dominate the region.

Those days ended a decade ago and the decline of the oil and gas industry in the years since has left the town, hundreds of kilometres from any other major community, in dire economic straights.

Now, it’s waiting for final approval from the provincial government for what it hopes could start a turnaround — a community forest, with licences and allowable cuts managed directly by the local government and the Fort Nelson First Nations.

“Many will do back flips the day that we know something is going to happen,” said Mike Gilbert, a development officer who has lived in the community for 40 years.

“Our neighbours have had a really rough ride and they’re hanging in there. So, it’s up to us to make this happen.”

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