Wetzin’kwa Community Forest gives out $300K in annual grants

Profits from the community forest tenure go back to community

The Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation has once again handed out money to community programs.

The profits from the community forest tenure are distributed annually to a broad range of projects that will return the greatest long term benefit to Bulkley Valley residents.

This year almost $300,000 was distributed.

The program has been around since 2007 and in the past 12 years they have given out approximately $1.8 million.

Director Gary Hanson said the community forest is all about giving back and it works in collaboration with the Province and local governments. He explained that rather than sending stumpage dollars to the provincial government, that money stays in the community.

Stumpage is a fee that businesses or individuals normally pay to the provincial government when they harvest timber from Crown land in B.C.

“In a typical tenure, in B.C., the stumpage dollars go to Victoria but with the community forest the concept is to leave the money in the community,” Hanson explained. “A reduced stumpage is paid and the community gets the benefit of that money.”

Hanson said the corporation also gives back by running the business as locally as possible.

“The whole intent of the community forest is to hire local people and you deal locally. This tenure runs from Hungry Hill to Witset so we try to make sure we hire people from there and keeping the money as local as possible.”

This year they also gave money to their community disaster relief fund.

“We set that up to address things that come along, whether it is fire or flood or in this case COVID-related,” Hanson said. “We gave out $27,500 to the Salvation Army and community services. We set this fund up recently. There were some groups that were in need a few months ago. On top of that, we have a stewardship fund. That was another $36,000. If you start adding it up, we had a significant year.”

Hanson has been volunteering for the past seven years as his way of personally giving back.

“I retired from my day job and thought I’d like to contribute something to the community,” he explained. “I wanted to do what I could. I do have a background in the forestry industry, although it isn’t a requirement to be on the board. We hire a general managing firm, that is Silvicon. They look after the operational side of things. The board deals with policy and sets the direction. It is funded by the harvesting of trees.”

Normally there would be a public event to hand out cheques but because of the pandemic, they will give the groups the money remotely.

The BV Musuem is one of the grant recipients this year and will use the money for a digitization technician position. They will be extending one of their youth summer positions for an additional 16 weeks through this funding, and part of the funding also covers some scanning work that they cannot do in-house due to the size of the items. That scanning will be completed by a local business.

The Smithers Figure Skating Club is also set to get some cash and will be using it to uprade the old sound system at the Civic Centre.

The Smithers Snowmobile Association was selected to receive a $15,000 grant to help replace their 1987 BR400 snowcat. “We will be purchasing a 2008 Pistenbully 400 this fall to replace the 33-year-old machine,” said club president Kyle Kurulak. The new machine is much faster than its predecessor, in addition to being more fuel-efficient, reliable and comfortable for operators,”

“The newest snowcat in our fleet will be used to groom both the Onion and Dome riding areas,” he added. “This will complete our fleet upgrade, setting us up for the next two decades of trail maintenance.”

The SSA received a $10,000 Wetzin’kwa grant in 2014 to replace a 1985 BR400 snowcat that was used to groom the Microwave and Sinclair riding areas.

”The replacement 2007 Pistenbully EDGE has been a welcome addition to our fleet, greatly increasing productivity and reducing maintenance and operating costs,” Kuruluk said.

He said the money was much needed. The replacement machine alone will be approximately $70,000.

“With the cost of sending a couple members to inspect the machine prior to purchase, transportation of the machine to Smithers, outfitting and operational costs for one season, the expected project cost exceeds $95,000,” he said.

The Seymour Lake Conservation Society got $2400. They will use the money to hire an assistant to help the government cut the extremely invasive Yellow Floating Heart from Seymour Lake.

Other reciepents include: BV Aquatic Centre; BV Community Arts Council; BV Cross Country Ski Club; BV Exhibition; BV Hospice Society; BV Otter’s Club; Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre; Friends of Smithers Library; Groundbreakers Agriculture Assoc.; Kyah Wiget Education Society; Round Lake Community Assoc.; Silvern Trail Society; Skeena Knowledge Trust; Smithers Francophone School Parents Assoc.; Smithers Mountain Bike Assoc.; Smithers Skate Park Society; Smithers Ski and Snowboard Club; Smithers Volunteer Assoc.; Spirit North; Telkwa Museum Society and Treehouse Society.

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