BC Community Forest Association
September 20, 2018
UBCM Endorses Community Forest Program Expansion
VICTORIA – Local government officials from across BC met in Whistler earlier this month for the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Convention. With 2017 and 2018 as the two worst wildfire seasons on record, wildfire and community protection were key topics of discussion at the convention.
The UBCM delegates endorsed a resolution calling on the BC government to expand the community forest program by increasing both the number and size of community forests to help achieve wildfire protection, promote rural development, and strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non- Indigenous communities. This follows a recommendation from the Abbott/Chapman BC Flood and Wildfire Review calling for an expansion in the number of community forest tenures in areas adjacent to communities as an effective tool for wildfire mitigation.
Premier John Horgan said this about wildfire during his UBCM address, “We just have to do better” and called on communities to bring forward their ideas. “We want to make sure that when communities come forward with problems, that we’re working with them to find solutions,” he said.
Communities across BC see the critical need to plan for wildfire and reduce the risk to residents. But their ability to act is limited when the forests that require fuel treatment are on public land, outside of the jurisdiction of local governments. Community-based tenures: community forest agreements and First Nations woodlands licences, are the only licensees with a mandate to do this work. These tenures are held by communities and managed for their benefit.
The BC Community Forest Association (BCCFA) has proposed an expansion in the number and size of community-based tenures around rural and Indigenous communities to help achieve wildfire protection and promote rural development. The leadership that many community forest agreement holders have shown to reduce hazardous fuels, and their current participation in programs such as Forest Enhancement Society of BC are clear evidence of their motivation and commitment.
Fitting that the convention took place in Whistler, a place where a community forest is demonstrating how this work can be done. The Cheakamus Community Forest, a partnership of the Squamish Nation, Lil’wat Nation, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, is building social licence and trust for their forest management approach. They are implementing the local wildfire mitigation projects, managing for the important recreation and tourism values and generating employment for the First Nations’ partners.
A community forest is an area-based forest licence managed by a local government, community group, First Nation, or a partnership of local governments, First Nations and community groups, for the benefit of the entire community.
The BCCFA is a network of rural community-based organizations engaged in community forest management, and those seeking to establish new community forests. They represent over 90 rural and Indigenous communities across the province.
Contact: Jennifer Gunter
BCCFA Executive Director
For more information on the BC Community Forest Association visit: www.bccfa.ca
This research draws on interviews with 24 Community Forests