Community forest donates $300K to community groups

Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation saw increased revenues in 2019

The Wetzin’Kwa Community Forest Corporation (WCFC) had a banner year with logging revenues up.

This year’s revenue was just over $3 million, almost double the previous year’s, allowing the corporation to donate almost $300,000 to community groups.

The community forest’s annual profits from the operations are distributed back into the Bulkley Valley with the aim to provide the greatest long term benefit. They held their annual general meeting on Nov. 18 in Witset and WCFC Director Lindsay Lange gave Telkwa council a summary at their last regular meeting.

During the 2018/2019 fiscal year almost 32,000 cubic metres was harvested from their tenure area. The majority of this volume, approximately 30,000 cubic metres, was sawlogs sold and delivered to Pacific Inland Resources in Smithers.

“There was really good utilization of the leftover 2,000 [cubic metres], we sent dead and dry wood to Seaton Forest Products for processing,” said Lange.

“Small and defective wood was sent to the Village of Telkwa for bioheat and Pinnacle Pellet and some was delivered to Witset for firewood. We are really working hard to reduce the carbon footprint of the community forest and keep the biofuels to a minimum up there; doing what we can to really diversify the use of the community forest.”

WCFC uses local contractors, they reported. The harvesting and road building operations completed in the 2018-2019 fiscal year resulted in contracts with a combined value in excess of $1,340,000.

Lange also said they weren’t sure what kind of forest fire season the region would see so they prepared for the unknown.

“Wildfire was a hot topic for us in the early spring, before we knew what the wet weather would be like all summer long,” she said. “So we did a lot of planning for wildfires. We put on a course for wildfire training, which was free of charge for members of the community.

“We also spent about $45,000 on a fully equipped firefighting trailer. So we have a trailer that has all the pumps, hoses and equipment needed and we also have a list of people who are qualified to fight those fires.”

They also focused on trying to reduce the amount of slash on the land and improve access to different water sources in the community forest along with signage so it can be easily located in the event of a forest fire. They also completed some surveys to identify the wildfire risk in the area.

It was mentioned at the AGM that during the spring Summit Reforestation, a Smithers-based firm specializing in tree planting throughout Western Canada, wanted to get involved in the community forest.

Summit had developed a relationship with Canmore Chrysler, a car dealership in Alberta that wanted to plant 25 trees for every vehicle sold. Summit Reforestation arranged to provide the seedlings and the planting expertise to plant 16,000 trees within WCFC at no charge.

The Wetzin’Kwa Community Grant Program distributes profits from the community forest tenure back into the community. Their website states they provide support for a broad range of projects that will return the greatest long-term benefit to Bulkley Valley residents.

“We budget about $250,000 for grants,” said Lange. “This year the ask was for over $400,000 and we actually gave out just under $300,000 in community grants. It was really an amazing thing to be a part of.”

This year $293,468 was distributed among these applicants:

Lake Kathlyn Protection Society; BV Research Centre; Smithers Mountain Bike Association; BV Hospice Society; Festival of Voices; Smithers Ski and Snowboard Club; Northwest Institute; Smithers Chamber of Commerce; Friends of the Smithers Public Library; Skeena Knowledge Trust; Smithers Art Gallery; Northwest Animal Shelter; BV Cross Country Ski Club; BV Folk Music Society; Smithers Royal Canadian Legion; Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre; Round Lake Community Assoc. Rural Writers; Driftwood School; Wet’suwet’en Treaty Office Society; Valley Youth Fiddlers; BV Agricultural & Industrial Association; Telkwa Community Initiatives Society; Smithers Community Services Association; Glenwood Hall; Bulkley Back Country Ski Society; Groundbreakers Agriculture Association; Quilters from the Heart; Grendel Group; Canadian Ski Patrol; Northern Society for Domestic Peace; Smithers Community Band; and Horses Touching Hearts Therapeutic Riding Association.

They also put aside some legacy funds into a Community Natural Disaster Fund which can be tapped into in the wake of a natural disaster in the Bulkley Valley.

Next year, WCFC doesn’t have winter logging planned but will have a large tree planting program. They will also do some road building, bridge building and road maintenance to get into some deeper areas of the community forest.

“We are actually expecting a net loss next year for those reasons, but that is all part of the cycle and it all makes sense,” Lange said, adding they have surplus balances to work with.

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