After years of planning and collaboration between the Village of Pemberton (VOP), Lil’wat Nation and the province, the new Spelkúmtn Community Forest (SCF) management plan was finally unveiled at a community information session on April 21.
The SCF, which consists of a total of 17,727 hectares of forest land, is a partnership between the VOP and Lil’wat Nation designed to promote reconciliation, increase community benefits from local resources and amplify local voices in regards to the management of the surrounding forest.
“Some of you may be aware that this has been years of collaborative effort on the part of the people of the Lil’wat Nation and the Village of Pemberton that led to establishment of the community forest,” said VOP manager of corporate and legislative services Sheena Fraser on behalf of Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman, who attended the call but wasn’t in a location where he could speak.
“It’s been a very long haul, but a really rewarding journey for all of us and a powerful demonstration of what we can accomplish when the communities work together. And we’re hopeful that this will be the first venture of a long and prosperous collaboration.”
According to the Community Forest Agreement (CFA), signed by Richman and Lil’wat Nation Chief Dean Nelson in 2020, some core values of the SCF include environmental stewardship, wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement, community relationships, watershed protection and economic viability, among others.
On top of the core values of strengthening relationships between Pemberton and the Lil’wat Nation, the SCF also has a list of 14 key objectives, one of which is maintaining an ecologically sustainable perpetual timber harvest rate of 11,000 cubic metres, or approximately 20 to 22 ha per year.
“We will continue to ensure that the work we do is sustainable in the long term and that there’ll be timber and forest values available for multiple generations here, for our kids, our grandkids, our great grandkids, for everyone,” said Klay Tindall, general manager of forest operations for Lil’wat Forestry Ventures. “It’s not just the timber today. Lil’wat has been here forever, and we want to ensure that the areas that Lil’wat is managing are here and available for everyone to enjoy for the future.”
As often comes up in discussions of forestry in B.C., VOP Councillor Amica Antonelli posed a question to Tindall on behalf of the many community members concerned about old growth logging, asking whether there will be a shift in practice when it comes to old growth.
Tindall said when considering timber harvesting plans, old growth is just one of several values the partners consider. Others include goshawk, spotted owl and grizzly bear wildlife habitat areas as well as several cultural areas the Lil’wat Nation wants protected.
“We are going to be working more closely in the next year to really help identify not only old growth but important old growth and not only important old growth to all of B.C., but important old growth to our local community … and not just look at blanket [old growth] numbers that are provided to us by the provincial government,” said Tindall.
“We’re so much different than the Okanagan and we’re so much different than Prince George. Our timber, our trees are different, the way we use the forests are different, and the values we have in the forests are different. So we will be looking at old growth as one of the important values that these forests bring to us. And we will be seeing if there’s changes that are necessary to be made.”
Some of the other main objectives outlined in the SCF management plan include protecting and maintaining water quality; protecting, restoring and enhancing wildlife and fish habitat; protecting at-risk species; protecting and enhancing recreation values and uses; and protecting the function and productivity of forest soils, among many others.
The 2022 harvesting schedule for the SCF began in February in Owl Ridge and continued through March 15, with the hauling of the timber following that until April 7. The timber harvesting schedule continued in the Mackenzie Basin area on March 10 and ran through April 7, while the primary area being harvested in 2022 is the Miller Creek area.
In 2023, the SCF plans to harvest timber around Green River.
The SCF is currently governed by an interim board that includes Richman and Pemberton Councillor Ted Craddock, as well as the Lil’wat’s Nelson, CAO Kerry Mehaffey, and Councillor Maxine Bruce. A permanent board will be formed sometime this year.