Whistler hopeful of managing own forests 

By Andrew Mitchell

Will the Resort Municipality of Whistler finally be managing the forests in and surrounding the municipality by 2007? Representatives are hopeful.

The municipality met with Ministry of Forests and Range representatives in August to present a draft Community Forest tenure application, and received positive feedback. The ministry recommended meeting with key stakeholders, including First Nations, to gather more information before resubmitting the application for government approval.

According to Heather Beresford, who is coordinating the RMOW’s application, the second round of consultation will wrap up this fall.

“We’ve been talking with the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations to find out what their issues are and how they want to be involved, and the LRMP (Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan) is pretty much at a final draft stage, so we’ll have to see how that’s going to affect our application,” she said. “We haven’t shown anything to the public since our last open house in October (2005), and there have been a few changes since then.

“We’ve also done some more work on the Timber Supply Analysis for the Community Forest using the Ecosystem Based Management process. We had an EBM workshop in the spring, where we got a lot of good ideas how we could do forestry more sustainably through a community forest.”

The EBM approach, Beresford explains, ensures that the ecological value of an area is taken into consideration before logging, such as old growth forest, riparian areas and woods bordering on wetlands. It also takes other land users into consideration.

Whistler has been working to secure a Community Forest since 1986, when the municipality applied for a Tree Farm License for the region. The municipality was unsuccessful in its 1999 application for a Community Forest, a new designation created by the province in the 1990s, but was invited with Squamish and Pemberton to reapply in April of 2005.

While the economic value to the communities are minimal — in the neighbourhood of a few tens of thousands of dollars per year at 10,000 cubic metres after costs — the benefit for Whistler is the ability to control logging operations and ensure that issues like aesthetics, recreation and tourism are taken into account within Whistler’s viewscapes. At the same time Whistler could minimize the impact of forestry in the region by using sustainable harvesting practices.

The expected benchmark of 10,000 cubic metres is roughly equal to 10 to 20 hectares of wood, depending on density — enough to fill approximately 200 logging trucks.

The latest version of the Community Forest application, which takes this new EBE approach and feedback from stakeholders into consideration, will be presented at a public open house on Nov. 21 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Telus Whistler Conference Centre, Garibaldi Room. A new draft five-year harvesting plan will also be presented.

According to Beresford, the five-year plan outlines specific timber harvesting projects within Whistler and the surrounding area, a total of 55,000 hectares, with a maximum Annual Allowable Cut of 25,000 cubic metres per year.

“That (AAC) number is going to be refined, and will likely be lower in the first few years and increase over the long term,” she said. “We will have to start slower because the second growth forest in the region is not harvestable yet, because the area was harvested so heavily in the past 50 years. Right now we won’t see 25,000 (cubic metres), we’ll more likely see about 10,000 cubic metres. When you include the EBM criteria, it actually brings that number pretty low until we can start with the second growth.”

Input from the open house will be evaluated and included in the final application to the forest ministry for approval. The goal, says Beresford, is to have approval in time to begin timber harvesting in the Community Forest in 2007.

Whistler has already entered into an agreement with B.C. Timber Sales, which would take care of the logistics and subcontract the harvesting, reforestation and management work to other companies.

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