Community Forest Co-op helps keep jobs local

With Cowichan Valley loggers exporting logs to the highest bidder left right and centre, the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-op aims to keep logs, and therefore mill jobs, local.


“There was a bunch of people who saw the erosion of jobs locally,” the co-operative’s treasurer Brook Hodson said, of its formation 15 years ago. “It’s quite disheartening for people in the forestry industry to not see jobs locally.”

The Forest Co-op organizes itself in five-year increments, wherein the total average amount logged can be 13,885 cubic metres a year.

During the first year of its current five year plan, they logged 15,000 cubic metres, the second year none, the third year 30,000, the fourth year none, and this coming year they hope to log between 10,000 and 12,000.

“We could have taken out 30,000, but it’s best to let them grow,” Hodson said, adding that the markets aren’t good enough to make it worth while at the moment. “If ever there’s a game of roulette, it’s forestry.”

During the last year they cut, in 2007 to 2008, an estimated total of 830 man days of employment time was spent logging, thanks to the Forest Co-op.

The Forest Co-op’s current non-renewable licence is for 13,885 cubic metres a year in the Mount Bolduc Block near Gordon River south of Honeymoon Bay.

This licence expires in 2015, after which time it’s expected they will get a land-based licence, rather than a volume-based licence, which they currently have.

The near future will not be business as usual, Hodson said, as the Forest Co-op hopes to up its annual logging take up to an average of between 50,000 and 60,000 cubic metres per year.

“We’re not shipping jobs off here,” Hodson said, adding that an increased allowance of logging could mean great things for the local economy.

Cowichan Lake Timber Ltd.’s head George Donnelly, for example, credits the Forest Co-op with helping keep his small mill in business, with fresh logs rolling in.

The land-base versus volume base licence, which they will likely obtain in five years, is a better option, as it allows for more certainty.

It’s hoped that a partnership they’ve struck with the Pacheedaht First Nation near Port Renfew and the established Qaly’it Community Forest Limited will help in their attemps to obtain this land-based licence.

The future of the logging industry, Hodson believes, is bright.

“We do feel that it will improve,” he said.

The Forest Co-op is governed by an eight-person board of directors, four independents, of which Hodson is one, and eight alternates for the board of directors.

Hodson joined when he was the CVRD director for Area I, and, thanks to an interest in what the co-operative was doing, decided to stay on afterwards.

“I found them to be very diverse in their business and life experiences,” he said, of the board.

The Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-op is holding its Annual General Meeting at 6:30 p.m. on October 14, at their offices on South Shore Road.

By Tyler Clarke – Lake Cowichan Gazette Published: September 27, 2010 9:00 PM

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