Williams Lake Community Forest Application: Media Release

The Williams Lake Indian Band and the City of Williams Lake received a direct invitation to apply for a Community Forest Agreement from Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. In response, the Band and the City (“the partners”) decided to identify candidate community forest areas from within the traditional territory of the Williams Lake Indian Band.

Chief Ann Louie said: “The Williams Lake Indian Band is pleased to have received an invitation to apply for a Community Forest Agreement, in partnership with the City of Williams Lake. The forests being proposed in the pending application are the Ne sextsine (Flat Rock) and Peskwenkwinem (Potato Mountain) blocks. Both are within the Band’s traditional territory and well suited to community forestry. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, both blocks are of great spiritual and cultural importance to our Band members. The Band welcomes the City (which is also encapsulated within our Traditional Territory boundaries) as its partner in a Community Forest Agreement within our traditional territory. We see this as a long term relationship that will last for many generations. While we recognize that others may have different opinions, we request that our right to decide with whom we partner be respected. We do not presume to tell others who they must partner with in order to graze their cattle, harvest trees or run their businesses within our traditional territory, so we ask that the same courtesy and consideration be extended to us.”

Three open-house meetings were held, including a very well attended meeting at the Big Lake hall on November 13, 2011. At these meetings the partners took public input on the goals and values of management for the selected areas, and more information was gathered from individuals after those meetings. This input has been incorporated into the application and the forest management plan being prepared for submission to the Ministry.

In addition, several meetings were held with representatives of the communities of Big Lake, Horsefly and Miocene to gather input and address their concerns. During those meetings:

  • The communities expressed the need to have direct input into the management of the community forest. The partners responded by committing to create a Community Council so that people and communities near the community forest could have direct input into the management and administration of the community forest.
  • The representatives asked for one or more seats on the Board of Directors. The partners were not comfortable agreeing to this request. The Board of Directors will be appointed by a legal partnership between the Band and City which, in addition to holding the Community Forest Agreement may conduct other business the partners may wish to pursue. In such circumstances, it is standard business practice for partners to appoint people of their choice to the Board of Directors. The partners did however, commit to the Board of Directors meeting with the Community Council annually or more often so that the community representatives will have direct access to the Board.
  • The neighbouring communities demanded a fixed annual payment in perpetuity. The amount requested was determined by the partners to be economically unviable. However, the partners agreed to make 5% of the net annual profits available within communities adjacent to the community forest. The partners further committed to purchase goods and services locally; to put work out for bid so contractors and businesses that reside near to the community forest would have a competitive advantage; and to sell logs to the whole range of milling and manufacturing businesses, from the major licensees in town to the small mills and businesses throughout the local area.

In addition to the foregoing, Mayor Kerry Cook notes that: “The City of Williams Lake will direct its share of the profits from the community forest to economic development, and promoting arts, culture and recreation; i.e. activities that will benefit residents of neighbouring communities as well as those who reside at Sugarcane and in the City. With that in mind, we will welcome input from other communities, either via the Community Council or through other forums.”

The City and Band feel that they’ve taken reasonable actions to respond to nearby residents’ and communities’ concerns and have provided for their future involvement in the management of the proposed community forest areas.

From the City’s and Band’s perspective, the crux of the issue is that Big Lake, Horsefly and Miocene would like to individually or collectively be invited to apply for a Community Forest Agreement. In fact, Big Lake has twice asked that it be extended an invitation to apply for a community forest agreement and, to date, no such invitation has been extended. The City and Band do not decide who gets an invitation to apply or the process that must be followed. However, the City and Band have said that if one or more of those communities get an invitation to apply, the partners are willing to sit down and figure how best to situate more community forests on the landbase even if that means relocating parts of the Williams Lake Community Forest.

MLA Donna Barnett said: “The Williams Lake Indian Band and the City of Williams Lake have worked long and hard to develop a sensible proposal that balances the expectations of all our communities against the difficulties of making this a viable enterprise. I applaud the work they have done and support their application.”

Opportunities for input from the public into the management of the community forest will remain open after the application is submitted; the community forest will continue to seek input.

For More Information, contact:
Ken Day, 250-392-2207

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