Wells Gray Community Forest Update

Community forest corporation discuss governance of funds at public meeting

Wells Gray Community Forest Corporation has a much healthier balance sheet than a few years ago but it still has some outstanding issues regarding governance and how its funds will be disbursed.

Those seem to be the main conclusions to draw from a public information meeting held by the corporation Sept. 30 in the Community Resource Center.

WGCFC now has about $222,000 in its chequeing and savings accounts, treasurer Richard Christianson reported. It also has about $150,000 in a silviculture accrual account – money that is already committed for planting, spacing, pruning and other mandated silviculture activities. This compares with being about $100,000 in debt just a few years ago after paying start-up costs.

The community forest is looking to increase its annual allowable cut, general manager George Brcko reported. Presently the cut is set at 20,000 cubic meters/year, plus temporary 13,500 cubic meter/year uplift for pine salvage. “We could do more with more wood,” he said. “The question is, how do we go about doing that.” Wells Gray Community Forest would like to increase the AAC to 50,000 cubic meters/year, he said. They’ve contacted various politicians but been told all the wood in the area has already been allocated.

One possible alternative might be to find higher production from the land they already have. The community forest has hired consultants who are using advanced techniques to map the most productive areas, said WGCFC board member Dave Meehan. The new procedures will help them to direct their silviculture practices to those areas that will benefit the most. They also might help them to get a higher cut within the tenure area they already have. Demonstrating advanced forestry practices within the community forest’s existing tenure would be a good argument for getting more tenure as well, Meehan noted.

The community forest is also trying to build up the number of cutting permits it has ready to go, rather than doing everything at the last minute, he said. Meehan predicted that by December, 2011, they will have three years of cutting permits.

Governance and distribution issues

Bas Delaney, a member of the group that first started working to get a community forest for the area about 10 to 12 years ago, questioned why the corporation’s financial records and annual reports aren’t available at the local library. The board had stated at an earlier public meeting that they would be, he said.

Delaney suggested Wells Gray Community Forest set up a website to make more information available, similar to the one developed by Sunshine Coast Community Forest.

Vickie Morden said the Community Resource Center’s website did not cost that much to set up and has been expanded since. It has proven invaluable in letting people know what is happening at the CRC, she said.

WGCFC treasurer Richard Christianson reported the community forest has set up a separate society to hold its shares. Ownership of the corporation has been a dilemma since it was set up, he said. The society would have its own board with representation from the community forest’s board, its advisory committee, District of Clearwater and Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Robert Taylor asked what sort of public input there had been in how the new society was set up. “The people are ethically the shareholders and should have a say in who holds the shares,” he said. Taylor pointed out that usually it is the shareholders who decides who is on the board, not the other way around.

Lawyer John Kurta said the community forest had received good legal advice when it set up the society. A corporation set up the way it was would have been too easy for an individual or group to take over. “Con men do it all the time,” Kurta said.

Ray Jackson was unhappy that the new society would handle disbursing the community forest’s profits within the community.

The original arrangement would be that North Thomson Community Foundation would handle disbursing the funds, he said.

By Keith McNeill – Clearwater Times
Published: October 11, 2010 5:00 AM

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