What Are the Benefits of Community Forestry?

Community ambulance purchased by Likely CF
Community ambulance purchased by Likely CF

The benefits of community forestry vary from community to community as they each identify their unique values and priorities. For example, one rural mountain community has identified water protection as their highest priority, while a First Nation community forest sees education and long term employment of band members as their key priorities. The numerous benefits of community forestry include:

  • Long-term community economic development resulting in the increased self-reliance of rural communities.
  • Local employment in rural communities.
  • Local-level decision making that leads to locally appropriate decisions and improves the incentives to consider the long-term benefits of sustainable management.
  • Increased potential to resolve conflicts over timber harvesting in watersheds and other sensitive areas.
  • Protection of drinking watersheds, viewscapes, and other values that are important to communities and to local and regional economic activity.
  • Enhanced opportunities for education and research. Community forests can be laboratories for testing innovative forest practices.
  • Community participation in resource management leads to an improved awareness of forest management among members of the public.


Here are a few examples of how benefits are defined and distributed at some British Columbia community forests.

Valemount Community Forest Company
•    The Company’s policy states that it will operate at arm’s length from the Village of Valemount.
•    Surplus revenues arising from the operations, as approved by the Company’s board of directors, will be distributed to the Village for programs and initiatives identified by the village council and (or) village taxpayers/residents to the village council.
•    The Company may make recommendations to the mayor and council for land base expenditures on the community forest, or other local forest areas, in accordance with the community forest organization’s guiding principles.
•    The Village will seek public input as part of its review process to determine use of funds generated by the Company.
•    The Company may also recommend that all or part of any profits be used to increase land base productivity, to enhance recreational and tourism, and (or) other multiple-use considerations on the community forest area.

Bella Coola Community Forest
•    At the beginning, the organization used the Community Forestry Guidebook (Gunter [editor] 2004) and contacted BC Community Forest Associations members. The organization followed the advice given, keeping the politics out of its decision making, and running the community forest as a business.
•    The organization was formed as non-profit society, with members paying a one time, $5 fee.
•    The Regional District has one seat reserved on the organization’s Board of Directors.
•    A company was formed made up of 63 local investors, who raised $253 000. This company elects a board of directors and has the right to manage the licence, which is held by the Society.
•    Shareholders receive the profits, and the Society has a 15% share. No entity can have more than a 15% voting share.
•    The organization also has a community advisory group (targeted group) that advises the Society and the company. The Society’s board decides how to distribute its 15% share.

Wetzin'Kwa Community Forest Corporation
•    The Community Forest Agreement is held by a numbered company with two 50% shareholders—the Village of Telkwa and the Town of Smithers.
•    In 2011, the Company distributed $150 000 as grants. A few direct awards were also made to organizations with which the Company has memorandums of understanding. A competitive process is also in place, which is based on the Mountain Equipment Co-op grants program; maximum grants of $15 000 are possible.
•    Grants are only available to a charitable or non-profit organizations.
•    Any profits that are not needed for reserve funds go to the grants program.
•    The profit-distribution process, call for proposals, and recipients are all posted on the Company’s website.
•    A portion of the profit-distribution funds go to local First Nations. WCFC has provided each of its shareholders (Town of Smithers and Village of Telkwa) as well as the Office of the Wet'suwet'en (which is one of the WCFC 'strategic partners') with an annual 'gift' of equal amount the past 2 or 3 years (~ $5,000 each; and rather than this amount go into general coffers, WCFC has requested that these funds be directed towards a land-based or sustainability type of activity or investment.
•   Local First Nations organizations (e.g. Office of Wet'suwet'en or Band or other) can also apply through the Community Grant Program.

McBride Community Forest
•    The Village of McBride set up a corporation, wholly owned by the Village. The community forest acts as a business, an option which does not put the taxpayers at risk.
•    Any profit is distributed to the Village as a dividend. Projects are funded both within and outside of the Village limits. The dividends are also used to leverage other funds.
•    Additionally, an allocation of $10 000–20 000 per year is made for a grant-in-aid program, for which applications are accepted twice a year. 
•    Although the organization’s board decides on how to disperse the funds for the grant-in-aid program, any requests of $250 or less can be dealt with by the community forest manager.
•    Through the Northern Development Initiative Trust,  a Community Development Trust was established with a matching contribution by the community forest organization. A community group at arm’s length from the Company distributes funds annually. Any interest accrued by the fund is also paid out annually.

Wells Gray Community Forest Corporation
•    Wells Gray Community Forest Corporation (forest management entity) determines the amount of surplus funds and disperses this sum to the Wells Gray Community Forest Society, who distributes the funds twice a year.
•    This model keeps profit distribution at arm’s length from the forest management.
•    The purpose of the Society is: To promote the economic and social welfare of the residents of Wells Gray Country (including the District of Clearwater), including the provision of support for benevolent and charitable enterprises, federations, agencies, and societies engaged in furthering these purposes.
•    Although the corporation originally thought that the foundation would hold its shares, the foundation was not interested in doing so. Instead, the foundation receives the profits and then distributes the interest according to Canada Revenue Agency rules for foundations.
•    The Community Forest Agreement holder has a goal of being responsive to local needs in a timely fashion; however, the foundation model limited the agreement holder’s ability to address ad hoc funding requests.
•    In cases where broad community support exists, some direct awards have been issued. In 2012, the direct award process was terminated as the demand was too great. So far, no community debate has taken place about where the profits should go.
•    The Society allocates some funds to the local foundation for its own funding process. At one time the foundation was investigated as the lead organization for distribution of profits to the community, but it was determined that the process does not meet the community forest’s criteria to be responsive and timely with the granting program.
•    For certain funding actions, the Society wants to be able to make quick decisions.

Likely–Xatśūll Community Forest
•    The Community Forest Agreement is a 50/50 partnership between the Likely and the Xatśūll First Nation communities. Each holds 50% of the shares in the limited company.
•    Every year, profits are set aside and split equally between the two communities to disperse as they choose.
•    Some joint projects include providing firewood for the elderly and single-parent families.
•    Likely disperses its share on the “dotmocracy” model.  All projects submitted are posted on the walls of the community hall where people vote for their favourite projects with a specific number of dots. The projects with the most dots receive funding, until the money runs out. Tourism projects are consistently the priority.
•    Xatśūll profits are distributed by chief and council. They used some of the profit to leverage more funds for their community/health centre.

Burns Lake Community Forest
•    The board of directors for Comfor Management Services Ltd., the municipally owned limited company that manages the Community Forest Agreement, has established a policy of allocating up to 30% of its before-tax earnings to a special Priorities Account.
•    This policy requires a written application for the dispersal of monies from the Priorities Account.
•    They Comfor has an evaluation committee that reviews applications for funding and makes formal recommendations to the board; the board then vote on whether to approve the full amount or a portion of the request.
•    Comfor has identified a complex funding approach correlated to five identified priorities: (1) local management of resources and economic diversification; (2) local employment and processing of resources; (3) recreation, forestry training, and education); (4) other community support; and (5) promotional advertising and activities. Applications for monies allocated to priorities 3, 4, and 5 will only be considered from non-profit or community support organizations within the Lakes District.

Powell River Community Forest
•    The limited company managing the Powell River Community Forest annually forwards surplus revenues as a dividend cheque to the City of Powell River, who is the Company’s sole shareholder.
•    In 2011, the Company forwarded $659 554 to the City after a successful year.
•    The dividend cheque is deposited into the Community Forest Reserve Fund, which was established through bylaw. This amount is declared at the Company’s annual general meeting as part of the audited annual financial report.
•    Money from this fund is for use in special projects that will benefit the community as a whole; the fund is not used for city operations or regular capital expenditures.
•    Potential community projects are reviewed by the Company’s board and the City Council. Company representatives and city staff meet on an ongoing, collaborative basis to review the status of the reserve fund and jointly review the potential project list.
•    When the dividend cheque is presented to the City for deposit into the reserve fund, the board may identify eligible projects it recommends for funding.
•    The Company and the City consider a range of project proposals of different sizes from both city and community groups. Community groups wishing to apply for funding from the reserve fund send a proposal with costing details to both the City and the Company’s board of directors.
•    To guide the Company’s project review, the board developed the following evaluation criteria.
o    The allocation of funds is consistent with the Community Forest Reserve Fund bylaw: There is demonstrated community support and the project outcome will be considered a community asset.
o    The shareholder (the City of Powell River) is likely to support the project.
o    Proposals are encouraged from community groups, non-profits and public sector agencies.
o    Partnerships are encouraged between the City and their user groups.
o    Proponents have a solid track record in the community and be a stable entity in the future.
o    Proponents who already have an investment in the project, or have raised a portion of the funds themselves, will be considered favourably.
o    Community forest funds may be identified to match or leverage funds from other sources (e.g., infrastructure grants).
o    Community projects that are ready to be developed are preferred; funds must be used in a timely, efficient manner.
o    The fund is intended for capital projects, not for planning, administration, or ongoing operations.
o    Projects should create opportunities for local workers, contractors, and manufacturers.
o    Projects that will demonstrate the use of locally manufactured wood products are encouraged.
o    Project proposals may be submitted at any time.

Esk'etemc Community Forest Activities

Boardwalk on Kager, Burns Lake


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