The District of Tumbler Ridge is seeking public feedback on a draft plan that outlines how the 22,000-hecatre Community Forest surrounding the town will be managed.
The town was awarded a Community Forest Agreement from the provincial government last year and for a term of 25 years. As part of that process, the District prepared a Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP) that includes objectives around ecological sustainability, economic development and social benefits to the community provided by management of the forest. That document is now open to public review and comment until March 12, before it will be sent to the provincial government for approval.
The Community Forest Agreement grants the District exclusive rights to harvest timber from Crown lands within the forest, which is located within the broader Dawson Creek Timber Supply Area. Duncan McKellar, project forester with Pacific Forestry Consulting in Prince George, who helped to draft the plan, said it is common for municipalities responsible for managing community forests to establish a corporation to manage timber harvest and supply.
"It will be managed by a forestry company, in a sense, that will look for mature timber, or timber that has been hit by the Pine Beetle, and look to harvest that fibre, and probably sell it to the large companies in Chetwynd, though there is some demand for that timber locally as well, from what I understand," said McKellar.
West Fraser Mills Ltd. was a former licencee in the area, and the agreement stipulates that the provincial government reserves the right to enter into agreements with the company for the harvest of timber within designated forest development units (FDUs).
The agreement also stipulates requirements for wildlife and habitat management and protection, including conservation of regionally important wildlife, species-at-risk, ungulate winter range habitat and riparian areas.
Unique to Tumbler Ridge's Forest Stewardship Plan is a requirement to consult with local paleontologists prior to any proposed timber harvesting or road construction, as the town boasts the only two vertebrate paleontologists in the province. McKellar said he put that requirement in the plan so that there would be a process if a paleontological discovery is made, during timber harvesting, for example, and to protect any fossils that may have already been discovered.
There is also a requirement to consult affected First Nations in regards to the potential impact of forest practices on cultural heritage resources.
The Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society will also be consulted prior to timber harvesting or road construction to assess any potential impacts to recreational resources. The plan formally identifies two recreation sites - Flatbed Creek and Moose Lake - but McKellar said there are between 15 to 20 hiking trails within the Community Forest, and there is a requirement for consultation when forest operations impact recreation sites or trails.
A copy of the full plan can be obtained by visiting Town Hall, and more information can be obtained by contacting Kelly Bryan, community development officer for the District, at 250-242-4242 or consultant Duncan McKellar at 250-964-2375.