When you hear “Community Forest,” it probably generates vague notions of trees, trails, and bugs. Maybe you’re not quite that informed. Maybe your concept ends with a fleeting glimpse of a picnic shelter near the highway, close to the top of the hill as you go to Moberly. Maybe you haven’t seen that.
Chetwynd has a community forest in partnership with Saulteau and West Moberly. It’s a real, working forest, covering thousands of hectares of timber land on top of the mountain between Chetwynd and Moberly. It stretches from Wildmare Creek in the south west over the mountain to Moberly Lake. From there it follows the high country north to a point somewhere directly west of Big Lake. It’s a large territory, home to three merchantable species: pine, spruce, and aspen, as well as other tree species too numerous to list. Bears and squirrels also live there.
When I call it a working forest, I mean that. It is not a park or nature reserve; it is not a place to build houses; trees must be cut; it is intended to turn revenue for the partners. An annual allowable cut is required by the Ministry of Forests. Harvesting plans must be prepared; roads will have to be built, maintained, and perhaps decommissioned at the end of use. Logged areas will have to be replanted. It’s for real.
The forest is managed by an independent, volunteer board of local foresters and representatives from West Moberly, Saulteau, and the District of Chetwynd. The more we go forward, the more we understand the complexities of putting logs on the trucks that move the timber to the mills.
And the revenue? There will be revenue, and the revenue increases according to a formula that connects log value to the price of lumber. You do remember that lumber prices are going up.
The Saulteau-West Moberly-District of Chetwynd partnership has negotiated a further partnership with West Fraser Mills to do initial harvesting. Naturally, this means that West Fraser will take the harvesting from the planning, mapping stages through laying out the cut blocks and tendering logging contracts, through replanting, road building, and decommissioning of roads. The responsibility of the partners is to receive payment for the timber. It won’t make us rich but, perhaps, in years to come the partners could get more actively involved in the work of the forest.
The first harvests, commencing in the pine-beetle-killed forests near Wildmare Creek, will take out approximately seven years of allowable cut within the first couple of years as we attempt to salvage the dead wood. A large area, mostly covered in old-growth spruce will be managed as an old-growth reserve and will not be harvested in the plannable future. Two percent of the land area is in aspen, part of the annual allowable cut but not now to be harvested as there is no local market. In everything we do, we endeavour to retain the values shared by the partners.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor