Spring 2009 – Community Forests are an important part of our forest sector, our economy, and our cities, towns and First Nations. They are a model of British Columbians working together to create wealth for our communities, while recognizing we have the responsibility of caring for the land, so future generations can do the same.
Community forests will continue to expand on that tradition as we move forward, with increased opportunities for existing holders, and further growth in the number of communities and people employed by, and benefiting from community forest agreements.
The growth of community forestry is being nurtured by policy. On March 24, I introduced Bill 13 in the Legislature. It improves operating certainty for community forests by making the agreements for a term of 25 years, replaceable every 10 years, and eliminating the five-year probationary term. The Bill also allows current probationary agreement holders to transition to a 25-year term at any time prior to the expiry of their agreement. The longer term provides agreement holders with the security to attract long-term clients, financing and investment, while giving residents the assurance of long-term stewardship of the land around their communities.
Community forest agreement holders have a diverse role in the future of British Columbia, as silviculturists, harvesters, and as suppliers to both traditional and next-generation value-added manufacturers. We have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our pulp, softwood and further manufacturing sectors and create new high-value products for the changing global economy, and part of that wood will be from community forests.
The number of agreements will continue to increase. I would like to see the proportion of the allowable annual cut dedicated to First Nations, community forests and woodlots increase significantly. The community forest program has expanded quickly since 2003 because the tenures are profitable and they are in demand. The Province continues to invite communities to apply and to guide them through their applications, because community forest agreements continue to be a successful contributor to the forest industry, and more importantly, to be a builder of communities in British Columbia.
Submitted by Pat Bell, Minister of Forests and Range