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International delegation learns about climate action at the Cheakamus Community Forest

Walking into the cedar longhouse of the Squamish Lil’wat cultural centre with our Vietnamese guests felt right. A symbol of friendship and sharing between these two First Nations, seemed like the perfect place for a conversation with an international group seeking insight on how Canadians are taking innovative climate action in their forests.

The Vietnamese delegation of government officials from the Ministry of Forests was accompanied by folks from Winrock International and the US Forest Service. They were here on a mission to learn more about climate forestry, and how Canada is using carbon markets to support improved forest management. Here, in the forests around Whistler, B.C., we had the perfect opportunity to share what Ecotrust Canada has learned about both.

President of the Cheakamus Community Forest, Jeff Fisher, centre, stands with the Vietnamese delegation in August 2019. (JOSEPH PALLANT/ECOTRUST CANADA)

The Cheakamus Community Forest encompasses 33,000 hectares, surrounding the village of Whistler and extending down to the Callaghan Valley to the south. With the advent of this new forest tenure type, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Squamish and the Lil’wat Nations took responsibility for forest management and harvest through a Community Forest Licence. With significantly differing ideas between communities on what they’d like to see happen on the land, they reached out to Ecotrust Canada to undertake an Ecosystem-Based Management Plan to see what sustainable management of the forest could look like. Expanded vegetative zones that serve as a buffer, smaller cutblocks, firesmart work and added preservation of Old Growth Management Areas and Wildlife Management Areas created a positive forestry reality that all partners could agree on. Forest carbon would be an integral, critical value component of the project — necessary to make it all work. Brinkman Climate, a long-time Ecotrust Canada collaborator and one of Canada’s original forest carbon offset developers, also joined the project as a partner, to supply their expertise to this task.

The project has been a success. It received verification and issuance to B.C.’s carbon offset standard, and has sold a majority of its first batch of offsets to the provincial government’s “Carbon Neutral Public Service” program, as well as to other businesses, individuals and local governments in the province. Its next batch of offsets will be issued in the near future.

Getting to reconnect with the project partners up in Whistler on my recent tour, and share the stories and lessons with our Vietnamese guests, was a real treat. The stories of this work — enabling better management of our forests, while supporting robust economies for forest-engaged communities needs to be told so that British Columbians, Canadians, and the global community can be empowered to make the world better by fighting climate change.

The Cheakamus Community Forest encompasses 33,000 hectares around the village of Whistler, B.C.