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Community Forest could become a bargaining chip

Pemberton council endorses a forester to devise a plan

Pemberton council has endorsed a plan that might give the village power to bargain with the logging companies proposing to cut the timber behind the Signal Hill elementary school.

CRB Logging, on behalf of Weyerhaeuser, has applied to take about 300 truckloads of logs out of the hillside behind the school and they also want to log forest inside Pemberton’s watershed.

After several weeks of deliberation Pemberton council have decided to endorse a plan for a community forest licence.

Professional foresters will now work on the details of that plan but there is a strong possibility that part of the land inside Pemberton’s proposed community forest will include the timber in the watershed and the timber behind the Signal Hill elementary school.

If this happens, and the provincial government approves the community forest plan, then the council will have "a say on what happens" on that piece of land.

This would open a raft of other possibilities for the council and indeed the logging companies, because the council could then contract the companies to log for them inside their community forest.

The council might also be forced to compensate Weyerhaeuser because Weyerhaeuser owns the timber rights to the land they have applied to log and they have a right to log it if they get approval from Squamish Forest District Manager Paul Kuster.

Moreover, the council could just make an offer to buy Weyerhaeuser’s timber license for a hefty sum.

Kuster confirmed that a partnership or a trade-off between Pemberton council, Weyerhaeuser and CRB was likely.

"If, for whatever reason, a piece of land is not available for logging the land base becomes constricted, so then what has to give?" said Kuster.

"I guess a new venture (between Pemberton council and Weyerhaeuser/CRB) might be the thing that has to give.

"I’m not saying it’s going to happen but that’s one of the ramifications."

Kuster hinted that another factor in any discussion about timber in B.C. is the fact that the area logging companies can log is rapidly diminishing.

"There is a lot of sentiment because of the high values that we have on land in this area.

"But not only does Pemberton not want logging right up to their doorstep, we’re finding that, say, Whistler in 19-Mile Creek or 21-Mile Creek don’t want to see logging there.

"The more land that’s not available for timber harvesting for whatever reason… it’s getting harder and harder for forestry to say ‘this is where we can propose an operation’."

One advantage Pemberton council has in this process is that community forests are something that the provincial government is supporting.

Two weeks ago the Ministry of Forests sent out a press release about the community of Creston and the fact that Forests Minister Michael de Jong was inviting the town to apply for a "probationary Community Forest agreement".

But Kuster said the government’s community forest plan was becoming a lot bigger than first expected.

"The government of B.C. thought they would be looking at community forests to a degree of so many cubic metres.

"But gradually as they start giving the green light for places like Creston the volume of forest is slowly being eaten up across the province."

In addition to stopping the logging near the village, Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner said it was also important for Pemberton to get a community forest license so it can bolster local jobs in the industry.

"We’ve lost 170,000 cubic metres of forest in this area and they say you lose one job per 1,000 cubic metres… that’s a lot of jobs," said Warner.

"We’ve been one of the hardest hit communities by all the changes."

The next step in this process will occur when Walter Cowlard from Weyerhaeuser meets with the Pemberton council in September.

Kuster, who must give final approval on Weyerhaeuser’s logging operation, said he would not be reviewing any material until after the September meeting between Weyerhaeuser and the council.