October 28, 2015
A worthy project frequently takes years to come to fruition. The Chetwynd Community Forest is no exception. Born in the mind of former Mayor Evan Saugstad and nurtured by previous Councils, the Chetwynd Community Forest has come of age.
As a three-way partnership among the District of Chetwynd, Saulteau First Nation, and West Moberly First Nation, the Community Forest clearly demonstrates the value of cooperation, trust, and hard work.
The concept of the Community Forest recognizes and supports at least four values: preserving history, respecting nature, nurturing First Nations interests, and returning a profit. We believe that after more than a decade of development and operation, the Community Forest is remaining true to the aspirations of its founders.
Operated by a volunteer Board of Directors and, for at least the first five years of production, managed by the professional foresters of West Fraser Mills, the Community Forest is, turning a profit. We are pleased to report that each partner has received a $100,000 dividend – the first and, perhaps, the last of that size. Let me explain.
The Provincial Government awarded the Community Forest a 20,000-cubic-meters annual cut. (This is not large and the Community Forest Board will be applying for a lift to the annual cut.) That said, you are all aware of the devastation wreaked on our forests by the pine beetle. This necessitated modifications to the harvesting plans. In order to salvage the dead wood before all value was lost, virtually all the pine in the Community Forest had to be harvested within the five-years shelf life of dead pine. Hence, a vastly increased rate of harvest.
Activity in the forest does not end with the last load of logs. The forest has to be restored through silvicultural practices such as tree planting, brush control, road reclamation, and other techniques. This is long-term and costly, and the Board must plan for years of work in the Forest when, perhaps, no revenue is generated. This is also one reason that the Board needs to proceed with the application to lift the annual cut.
Each partner in the Community Forest appoints two members to the Board of Directors. Chetwynd’s first two appointees were Tony Fazekas and Ben Beaulac. When Tony passed away somewhat more than a year ago Don Hicks agreed to take that Board position. Ben has now had to resign his position but we are pleased to welcome David Paull to take his place. Volunteer board positions are frequently thankless so I want to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the Community Forest Board for their valuable service to our communities.
No, the dividend will not go into general revenue! Revenue as special as a dividend from the Community Forest must be used only for very special purposes. The very special purpose for this dividend payment is the Chetwynd Medical Clinic and Wellness Centre. A priceless plus: the Community Forest shares territory with Chetwynd’s magnificent trail system so prized by our people.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor