Members of the Klahoose First Nation work at a mainland logging site

Cortes partnership secures forest tenure

The Cortes Island community and the Klahoose First Nation will oversee 3,700 hectares of Crown forest

Forests, fibre and solid partnerships will provide for an excellent future, says Klahoose Chief James Delorme.

The elected leader of the Cortes Island-based First Nation was still in a celebratory mood Monday following Friday’s announcement of a new community forest tenure for the island by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources.

“The prospects are good…it’s a resource we have to manage properly because it provides for the future of our people and the people of this community,” said Chief Delorme.

The Cortes Forestry General Partnership, a collaboration between the community and the Klahoose, is now responsible for more than 3,700 hectares of Crown land in various forests around the island.

In addition to the economic opportunities, it gives Cortes Islanders the ability to manage some local forestry. Last November, islanders protested and blocked road access to forest land owned by Island Timberlands due to concerns of over-logging and long-term damage to sensitive ecosystems.

Now, the community forest group has the chance to develop and demonstrate sustainable logging practices.

“We now have the great opportunity and the challenge of developing a Community Forest Operating Plan that will reflect the expectations of the broader island community,” said Bruce Ellingsen, a community forest advocate.

“I trust it will create millennial benefits for the island, and beyond, and will mirror the success of the traditional First Nations’ approach to managing resources within their territory.”

David and Goliath

The Klahoose already operate a community forest licence in the traditional territory it holds in the Toba Valley on the mainland.

How the band acquired the tenure is a modern-day David and Goliath story.

In 1988, the band of about 300 people put a stop to private, clearcut logging in the Toba Inlet, by blocking off the access road through Klahoose territory leading to the log dump.

The standoff continued for two decades until Hayes Forest Service, on the verge of bankruptcy, intended to “sell” back Tree Farm Licence 10, but still retain the logging rights.

The company was working on the deal along with the Ministry of Forests office in Powell River when the Klahoose stepped in. They took their case to B.C. Supreme Court where Justice Christopher Grauer ruled the district forestry manager in Powell River failed to properly consult with the band.

The standoff finally ended in 2009 when the province gave the Klahoose $2.1 million towards the $3.75 million purchase price of the licence. In return, the Klahoose agreed to re-enter treaty negotiations.

Since then, the band has turned the logging area into a community forest licence, reaping financial benefits and business opportunities.

Cortes licence

The new community forest licence will provide new opportunities in a collaborative partnership that’s been a few years in the making.

According to Chief Delorme, it will benefit independent logging businesses who, in turn, spend their money locally, and it will help train the next generation of loggers and business owners.

“There’s also the ripple effect of how it benefits our community, Cortes, Powell River and Campbell River,” he pointed out.

The agreement was granted to the Cortes Forestry General Partnership, made up of the Klahoose and the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative, and covers a 3,775.5-hectares on Cortes. Under the agreement, the partners can harvest up to 13,600 cubic metres of timber a year.

Some of that wood will also go to the new T’oq Woodworks sawmill which the Klahoose own and operate at Squirrel Cove.

“Fibre supply is no longer an issue…and we’re using our own resources,” he said.


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