The B.C. government defines a community forest as a forest managed by a local government, community group, First Nation or combination thereof – for the benefit of the entire community.
The provincial community forest program allows forest managers to consider management objectives beyond just maximizing timber yield, such as recreation, environmental stewardship and watershed health.
Community forests often spur innovation and assist with conflict resolution, local economic diversification, and local training and skills development. While more diverse, community forests are not parks but must be run as profitable businesses that provide money for local benefit.
There have been efforts to bring a community forest to Golden and the surrounding area dating back to 1999. The original idea began when professional foresters Brian Amies, Denise English and Kindy Gosal met with local politicians.
Due to the state of the forest industry at the time and the local ministry of forests office recent move to Revelstoke, their initial effort was not well received by local government or industry.
Despite this, in 2006 the forest minister allocated 20,000 cubic metres of timber volume towards a community forest for the Golden area, a measure of how much wood can be harvested per year in an area. Unfortunately, in 2010 without community engagement the provincial government the volume at the time and it reallocated the 20,000 cubic metre volume to BC Timber Sales, managed out of Vernon.
Since that time, BC Community Forestry Association (formed in 2002) has continued to pressure the province to make community forests a priority. This has resulted in 58 Community Forestry Agreements across B.C. Over half of these are held by First Nations or are a partnership with First Nations.
In June 2018, several members of the group, now calling themselves the Golden and Area A Community Forestry Team (GACFT), including Denise English, Brian Amies, director Karen Cathcart (Area A CSRD), Golden Mayor Ron Oszust and Jon Wilsgard, town administrator, met with then forest minister Doug Donaldson who, while not guaranteeing that Golden would get its community forest, encouraged them to continue pursuing this project. He stated that community forests were a part of his government’s mandate and that expanding fibre utilization was valuable.
With a major review of timber volumes and allocations in the Golden Timber Supply Area planned for 2021, the time is now to build support in the region and develop a vision and assess the economic viability of the project.
In spring 2020 GACFT received a grant from the Columbia Basin Trust and from the CSRD Area A and Town of Golden and are prepared to take the next step, such as building a relationships with the local First Nations and collaborate with them, as well as gaining support from interested stakeholders and industry and develop the vision.
GACFT is grateful to the Columbia Basin Trust, CSRD Area A and the Town of Golden for the funding support through the Community Initiatives, Affected Areas Program and the Economic Opportunities Funds and the Columbia Woodlot Association for championing this project.