Healthy forest forum provides insight

Local residents want more local control over local forests.

Sandy Mackenzie moderates a Healthy Forests – Healthy Communities dialog in Clearwater on Saturday

Sandy Mackenzie moderates a Healthy Forests – Healthy Communities dialog in Clearwater on Saturday

Local residents want more local control over local forests.

That seemed to be the main message coming from a Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities forum held Saturday afternoon, Nov. 5, in the Wells Gray Inn.

About 60 people participated, with Clearwater-based forest technician Sandy Mackenzie acting as moderator.

Following a welcome from Simpcw First Nation elder Sam Saul, retired longtime teacher Lorne Wright gave some introductory remarks.

“The forest gave me a job,” he recalled. “I love the forest. I want to remain in the forest.”

Wright said there is now too much centralization of forest management.

“I would like to see us have local offices again,” he said. “I would like government to pay attention to what local people say.”

Clyde MacLennan said he is the fourth generation to live at the family’s ranch next to Raft River.

He formerly spent his summers doing silviculture work but that has been cut back recently.

“The work is not as steady as it used to be,” he said. “When things get tough in the forest industry, the first thing they cut is silviculture.”

As a result there are huge areas of NSR (not sufficiently restocked) land around but the Ministry of Forests no longer considers that relevant. Instead, the focus is on the most productive land, said McLennan.

“I believe a person or group needs a philosophy of what they believe in,” said Mayor John Harwood. “I believe we have a responsibility to farm the land responsibly.”

Harwood noted that in 1966 the tax base in Avola and Blue River was greater than Clearwater and Vavenby, because of the number of small sawmills in those communities.

The mayor noted that the provincial government talks about its carbon tax to reduce emissions, but still allows logging trucks to haul logs thousands of kilometers.

“It seems foolish to put a forestry office in the center of a city,” Harwood observed.

Speaking from the floor, Wells Gray Country director Tim Pennell suggested one goal of the forum would be to develop options that local groups could take to local government.

Clearwater councilor and mayoralty candidate Bert Walker expanded on Pennell’s suggestion and said possibly local government could then take the options as a motion or motions to Union of B.C. Municipalities for action by the provincial government.

The Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities initiative aims to inform decision makers about the people’s vision for the forestlands of British Columbia, identifying areas for improving long-term sustainable management to achieve their goals.

Further information about the Healthy Forests – Healthy Communities initiative is available at http://bcforestconversation.com.