MARCH 13, 2008 (WHISTLER, BC) – The partnership of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Squamish Nation and Lilwat Nation have been invited to submit an application for a Probationary Community Forest Agreement from the Hon. Rich Coleman, Minister of Forests and Range.

The three partners intend to develop an eco-forestry operation in 55,000 hectares of forestland surrounding the internationally renowned mountain resort and Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Winter Games. The proposed Community Forest will be among the first forestry operations on the B.C. coast to employ a new, ecosystem-based management approach.

"A community forest presents a unique opportunity to locally manage forest resources, showcase the highest standards of eco-forestry to the world, and meet the growing demand from conscientious consumers," said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed. "Partnering with the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations strengthens the ties between our communities, so this initiative is significant forward step on our journey to sustainability."

"The Squamish Nation continues to exercise governance and sustainability in our traditional lands, said Chief Bill Williams, "pursuant to our Xay Temixw Land Use Plan, and we look forward to working co-operatively with the Lil’wat Nation and Whistler in this project".

The Lil’wat Nation Council has embraced the opportunity to partner with the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Squamish Nation as community forest partners. Creekside Resources Ltd., a business arm of the Lil’wat Nation, will be representing the Lil’wat Nation partnership interests, says Greg Bikadi, President Lil’wat Corporations.

Whistler, the First Nations and local stakeholders are working with the non-profit organization Ecotrust Canada to custom design an ecosystem-based management forestry plan with a sustainable harvest level that will not harm sensitive habitat or destroy viewscapes, scenery and Aboriginal cultural values.

Ecosystem-based management is the gold standard in sustainable forestry, says Ian Gill, President of Ecotrust Canada. It is fundamentally about ensuring that the entire ecosystem is fully functional and protected through all current and future forest development. Its about going from volume-based to value-based forestry.

The Whistler 2020 sustainability strategy, the Xay Temixw Land Use Plan (Squamish), and the Lil’wat Land Use Plan all articulate the importance of sound land management to support the long-term economic, social and ecological viability of the communities. The Community Forest plans to permit timber harvesting without compromising the forest ecosystems or undermining other forest values that are important for tourism, recreation and especially First Nations.

The partners plan to have the proposed Community Forest certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC is a voluntary system to independently audit the practices of forest managers against objective, performance-based standards encompassing environmental, social and economic values. Certified forest managers can then use the FSC logo to market their timber to manufacturers, wholesalers and consumers who are guaranteed that they are buying good wood from sustainably managed forests.

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For more information contact:
Heather Beresford,
RMOW Environmental Services,
604-935-8374
hberesford@whistler.ca

Diana Waltmann
Senior Communications Officer
604-935-8104

FAQ COMMUNITY FOREST

What is a community forest?

A community forest is a forestry operation managed by a local government, community group or First Nation for the benefit of the community. Community forests help communities diversify their local forest economies. These are area-based tenures, which allow communities to manage harvesting operations as well as other values such as trails and recreation sites, wildlife, water supply and scenic viewscapes.

As a first step, probationary community forest agreements are awarded which carry a five-year term to allow both communities and the Ministry of Forests an assessment period. If successful, the agreement-holder may be offered a long-term community forest agreement, which carries a term of 25-99 years, and is replaceable every 10 years.

Who is involved in the community forest?

The Resort Municipality of Whistler, Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation are partners in the community forest venture. The partners will establish a three way, equal share Limited Partnership and a General Society to administer and operate the community forest. The initial Annual Allowable Cut is set at 20,000 m3 per year, with the RMOW contributing 10,000 m3 and the other partners contributing 5,000 m3 each.

Why does Whistler want to operate a community forest?

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has long recognized the primary importance of sound land management on the viewscapes and watersheds of the area to support the long-term economic, social and ecological viability of the resort community and to the regional economy. To promote Whistlers position, the RMOW forged cooperative relationships with a variety of provincial ministries, but the province held final authority.

The primary benefit of a community forest is that the RMOW and its partners will have management control of forest harvesting surrounding the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Does this mean Whistler is getting into the logging business?

The community forest partners will hold the community forest tenure and be responsible for planning, management and operations. To implement the vision of small-scale, sustainable harvesting the partners are working with EcoTrust Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a conservation economy, to develop an ecosystem-based management plan. The partners are particularly interested in small group selection and shelterwood silviculture systems, and managing for visual quality.

As the tenure holder, the RMOW and its partners will set the standards for harvesting in line with their sustainability and cultural goals an opportunity that does not exist for the RMOW outside of a community forest tenure. The actual harvesting will be done by local contractors in accordance with the ecosystem-based management plan and Forest Stewardship Plan guidelines.

The RMOW Council-appointed Forest & Wildlands Advisory Committee will provide advice and input to the management of the community forest.

How does operating a community forest meet Whistlers sustainability initiatives?

Building on Whistler 2020 as a foundation, the Community Forest will refer to the sustainability plan in its decision-making process, as well as the Squamish and Lilwat Nations land use plans. The following community stewardship and management objectives will be used to guide the management of the Whistler Community Forest:

  • To support Whistlers community sustainability initiatives by ensuring that Whistlers watersheds and viewscapes are managed in an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable manner.
  • To manage and direct land management activities in a manner that will conserve and enhance visual values, forest health/habitat values, public recreation values and protect public safety.
  • To foster a cooperative management approach to resource management in the Sea to Sky corridor to ensure that all stakeholders and resource sectors are treated equitably, thereby continuing to support local resource employment.
  • To generate incremental employment, especially for First Nations people, by promoting and soliciting additional investments in land stewardship activities.

How big is the proposed community forest?

The total area for the proposed community forest is about 55,000 hectares. Its boundaries are based on the previous Local Resource Use Plan boundary, and encompass the Brandywine, Callaghan, Madely, Rainbow, 19 Mile, 16 Mile, Wedge, Cheakamus and Daisy Lake areas.