Public support key to Dungate Community Forest expansion

Proposal has economic and other benefits for community

  • Jun. 17, 2020 12:00 a.m.
Dungate expansion project to be developed over the summer. (District of Houston illustration)

Dungate expansion project to be developed over the summer. (District of Houston illustration)

Plans by the Dungate Community Forest to expand its annual allowable cut will be helped along by local support, says one person involved.

“It is an important part of the application,” noted Greg Yeomans speaking on behalf of the community forest.

“As we go through this process we are hoping to hear back from the community and reflect on that feedback before we submit anything to the government,” he said.

And while the forest, lands and natural resource operations and northern development ministry has consistently told the community forest all of the annual allowable cut within the Morice Timber Supply Area (TSA) has been allocated, Yeomans said that’s the case with every timber supply area in the province.

“There are many community forests that would not be here now if that was the final answer,” he said.

One argument forwarded by Dungate is that adjacent TSAs have a higher proportion of their annual allowable cuts allocated to community forests than does the Morice TSA.

By percentage, 3.4 per cent of the Bulkley TSA is allocated to community forests and 21.8 per cent within the Lakes TSA compared to 2.4 per cent in the Morice TSA.

In terms of cubic metres, that works out to 29,000 for Dungate and 10,088 for the Babine Lake Community Forest.

The Dungate proposal is to add 15,000 cubic metres to its current 29,000 cubic metres.

Yeomans noted that there is no set percentage set aside within TSAs for community forests allotments.

“Burns Lake has a very high level of community forests. This is not typical. This happened in response to a mill burning down,” he said. “The mill was later rebuilt but all the pressure occurred when the mill rebuild was unknown.”

That desire for more local control of timber harvesting is very much at the core of the Dungate philosophy with Yeomans emphasizing the impact on Houston when Houston Forest Products closed in 2014, resulting in both the loss of jobs and economic activity.

“I am sure this plus input from the community will be a very important consideration for the government,” he said.

In addition to local employment opportunities, Dungate has also pointed to the profits it generates being returned as grants to community groups and activities.

As of late 2019, nearly $41,000 was provided to groups and activities.

And thanks to a 99 per cent ownership by the District of Houston, Dungate profits have helped the District finance current and future capital projects.

Also core to the Dungate proposal is taking in a portion of the Morice Mountain Recreation Area as it is within that area that Dungate could then expand its annual allowable cut.

“It is important to note that the Morice Mountain Recreation Area is part of the timber harvesting landbase. This means to support harvest levels there has to be harvesting up there some day,” said Yeomans.

“We are looking for a tenure that works well for doing something different for these special areas adjacent to Houston.”

And given the prospect of logging within the recreation area, Dungate’s broad plan calls for small scale harvesting to enhance recreation opportunities within the recreation area for locals and to attract tourists.

So far, Yeomans says forests ministry officials have been listening closely.

“As they understand the special areas we are trying to include in the proposal, they have become more understanding without making any promises,” he said.

Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, the formal Dungate proposal to the province will be developed over the summer.

Houston Today