Community forest for city a possibility

The city may be one step closer to having its own community forest

The city may be one step closer to having its own community forest.

At last week’s strategic meeting, councillors voted to hire a forestry consultant for no more than $6,000 to determine the viability of a community forest.

Council was presented with a recommendation to apply for a community forest two months ago but was hesitant to get involved.

Nigel Ross, chair of the city’s Future Forestry Task Force, warned council that there were a number of considerations.

“Campbell River is a forest dependent community and a community forest would fit with the town’s theme,” Ross said. “Community forests can be a viable business and can make a positive fiscal contribution to the town. But it should be kept in mind that any business does have the risk of losing money, especially if social objectives override fiscal priorities.”

Community forests are on provincial land and leased by communities for terms of 25 years, with a renewable option every 10 years. Although the lessee decides when, where and what to log and who to sell the logs to, the location of the forest is a joint decision between the community and the province.

The location of the forest, as well as the objectives, are the biggest factors in whether or not the city could turn a profit.

“If it is run like a business it might make money, if it is run for social reasons then it will probably lose money,” Ross said.

He said if the city is offered a community forest, the land base and the timber resource should be critically evaluated as both have a big impact on profitability.

“There is some vacant crown land around Campbell River that is presently not contributing to the provincial AAC (Annual Allowable Cut),” Ross said. “This land should be incorporated into the Community Forest.

“It should be noted that much of this land is within the Campbell River Community Watershed and could be very environmentally sensitive.”

Ross said if the city goes ahead with a community forest it should also consider making the logs available to local businesses at market prices and management of the forest should not be handled by the city.

“All phases of the community forest should be tendered out,” Ross said.

“The manager should be given clear objectives to achieve. If there is a board of directors the manager reports to, then they should be largely volunteer.”

Ross said he believes a community forest would be a good fit for Campbell River but stresses it can be a risky business.

“The chances of profitability can be greatly improved if actions are taken to maximize revenue and minimize costs,” Ross said.