TNRD's community forest pursuit to help with fire safety, wildlife management | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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TNRD's community forest pursuit to help with fire safety, wildlife management

File photo.

A community forest managed by the Thompson Nicola Regional District could be an opportunity for a myriad of benefits including revenues and wildfire prevention.

While a proposal for a community forest agreement is still in its infancy, a report commissioned by the regional district shows a community forest would generate revenues that could be directed at recreation, forest management and education.

It's estimated that the start up cost would be around $300,000, which would include appointing a board of directors to manage it, according to a report presented to the regional district economic development and recreational services committee on Sept. 22.

"You don't need a huge bureaucracy to run a community forest," regional district director Ward Stamer said. "It's revenue positive once it's up and running, and everybody wants to make sure we're being as conscientious to taxpayers money as we can be."

Getting into the forest to cut trees and transport logs could also be streamlined by coordinating with community forests already in place in the region, according to Stamer.

READ MORE: Logan Lake has written the Fire Smart playbook for other cities, towns to follow

The Lower North Thompson Community Forest near Barriere started out very "top heavy," he said, overloaded with bureaucracies. He hopes the regional district could learn from those lessons.

"One of the things we learned was to keep it simple," he said. "And once you start making money on it, the board can decide where money should be going from there."

The community forest near Barriere essentially manages logging practices and directs contractors to where and what to cut.

Revenues are then funneled back into the community for different initiatives like trail building, wildlife management and wildfire mitigation projects.

Community forests are not uncommon in B.C. and large tenures in the region include the Logan Lake Community Forest Corporation and Lower North Thompson Community Forest Society.

They often operate as non-profit corporations and are managed by local governments or First Nations. They are meant to benefit the entire community, taking into account economic, social and environmental factors.

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In 2020, the average community forest generated over $2 million in log sales, then put much of that funding back into the local community, according to the B.C. Community Forest Association.

This amounted to an average of over $54 million in lumber sales across the province from 28 of the 59 community forests in B.C. that are part of the association.

In 2020, $2.4 million was invested in wildfire mitigation projects across B.C. through community forests, which treated over 7,500 hectares.

The Logan Lake community forest is part of the community's overall plan to protect properties from wildfires. Its forest management practices remove ladder fuels and understory from the forest floor, making it harder for wildfires to spread quickly among tree tops.

The Thompson Nicola Regional District originally set out to explore a community forest in January, later contracting Atlas Information Management to conduct a feasibility study.

Although the regional district has expressed its interest to the Province in operating a community forest, the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resources will ask interested parties for an official application later this year now that the annual allowable cut in the Kamloops was reassessed in May.

READ MORE: RCMP assess enforcement resources after court reinstates logging injunction in B.C.

There is no guarantee the regional district will be tapped by the ministry to submit the application.

The ministry last assessed the allowable cut in the Kamloops area in 2016, and each time prospective loggers then apply for Crown land to cut until the area is reassessed.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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