Squamish Nation and District choose governance of community forest

Three directors from municipality selected, three more expected for the Nation

Authorities are hoping for increased logging, research and education opportunities as the prospect of a community forest draws nearer.

The governing body for a new community forest partnership between the District of Squamish and the Squamish Nation has been selected.

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Mayor Karen Elliott and counsellors Armand Hurford and Jenna Stoner will represent the District of Squamish on the Squamish Community Forest Corporation’s board of directors.

That corporation will be responsible for overseeing the forest.

Three representatives are expected from the Squamish Nation, but information on who was picked wasn’t available at press time. The Nation was contacted, but didn’t reply before deadline.

It’s a big advance for the project, which has been discussed for years. Previously, the province allowed some Crown forest land next the District to be managed by the District and the Nation.

Both parties took the province up on the offer and have since been figuring out the terms of their partnership. Choosing governance is a significant development.

The exact location of the community forest has yet to be chosen, but it’s expected to be on land adjacent to the District’s eastern borders.

The province is allowing both the District and the Nation to each have annual allowable cut of 10,000 cubic metres.

“It’s going to help with long-term economic development in the community, help with local employment,” said Neil Plumb, the District’s manager of real estate.

“It’s going to bring local-level decision making to the table.”

In addition to logging opportunities, Mayor Karen Elliott said the community forest would bring benefits with respect to education, research, and First Nations culture.

“There’s cultural and spiritual places [the Nation] wants protected. So this provides a way to work together with them so to make sure that foraging areas, trap lines, cultural areas, spiritual places are considered in the management of the forest,” said Elliott.

“It’s really about bringing that control more to a local focus.”

There was some concern regarding the possibility of increased logging.

A briefing note presented to council reads that the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association raised questions about how forestry might impact trails.

“SORCA has recently started to receive complaints from concerned citizens and local mountain bike businesses regarding the cumulative impacts of these cutblocks through prime trail areas,” the note says.

It also urged council to use the community forest as an opportunity to preserve trails.

While members of the Nation and the District will sit on the board of directors for this land, the municipality emphasized that this will be an arms-length arrangement.

A limited partnership agreement will limit liability for either party.

Neither government will have a say in the day-to-day operations of the area. They won’t be responsible for operating costs, either, according to Plumb.

However, both the District and the Nation — via its company, Northwest Squamish Forestry Ltd. — will receive 50-50 profits from the venture.

A forest manager will be hired to take care of the daily minutiae.

On the District’s side, there seems to be freedom to appoint new directors at any time via a council resolution.

However, District directors are considering a fixed term system, possibly of two years.

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