Word is coming out of the Ministry of Forests that the community forest movement may finally receive support from the government.
The community forest movement had an initial boost from the previous government’s community forest pilot program. Out of more than 110 communities formally expressing interest, eleven received pilot licences, many of them quite small.
Since then, the government has done nothing to nurture the concept of community forests. There have been major changes to the forestry regime, but it continues to favour large industrial operators over community forests. And local activists who are concerned about nearby logging have only one choice to get some decision making control, become loggers themselves and be awarded a licence that gives them a right to cut.
And despite the government’s decision more than 15 months ago to take back 20% of corporate tenure and allocate some of that to community groups, it has appeared that communities were being shunted aside in the reallocation.
Back to the good news. In a meeting with the Ministry of Forests on July 8, Will Horter learned that the government is starting to put more effort into finding volume for community forests, and perhaps in developing new models that will provide new innovative mechanisms for communities to increase their control over neighboring lands without becoming tenure holders. This is the first good news community forests advocates have had for a while.
It’s still early, of course. And there hasn’t been any indication that the forestry regime would be amended to help make community forests viable–e.g. log markets that would allow sale of locally cut wood to highest bidder, rather than to the nearest industrial supermill. In fact, the new Forest Revitalization Act and virtually every other change made by Campbell’s Government primarily benefit big corporate loggers including the secret, sweetheart privitization deals recently announced.
And it’s clear the limited 20% takeback will not be sufficient to satisfy demand with over 120 communities lined up and waiting.
Nonetheless, it is encouraging to hear that the community forest movement may start to get the respect it deserves at the Ministry of Forests.
It’s not surprising with an election looming that 15 to 20 additional community forest tenures will be granted. The BC government is trying to win votes by trying to balance their overwelmingly pro-corporate forest agenda.
Regardless of the government’s motivation, community forest activists around BC should start organising themselves to take advantage of the coming opportunities.