Cheakamus Community Forest Frequently Asked Questions

 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.

Who is involved in the Cheakamus Community Forest?
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), Squamish Nation, and Lil’wat Nation are partners in the community forest venture with Richmond Plywood acting as the operating contractor.

Why does Whistler want to operate a community forest?
The 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. The community forest clearly recognizes that the natural beauty of the area is a strong draw for tourism and has those values at the top of mind when planning community forest operations.

The primary benefit of a community forest is that the RMOW and its partners will have management control of forest harvesting surrounding Whistler and not a private forestry company.

Is the forest closed to recreational use?
No, the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) tenure is not exclusive. The CCF remains open to all forms of recreation, both public and commercial.

How can citizens keep informed on the Cheakamus Community Forest plans?
Maps detailing annual harvest areas are available on this site. Any news, including upcoming community meetings, is posted on the home page of this website and will be advertised in local newspapers.

Will the forest have an impact on local job creation?
Local job creation and capacity building for the First Nations’ partners are goals of the Cheakamus Community Forest. To this end, the CCF has contracted Richmond Plywood, a progressive worker-owned company, to harvest the timber using locally hired contractors with preference given to First Nations people.

How is sensitive ecological habitat preserved?
Close to half the forest, 15,000 hectares, will never be subjected to any harvesting thanks to government and CCF polices protecting rangeland, sensitive ecological habitats and waterways. The CCF continues to identify sensitive habitats and ecosystems through its ecosystem based management plan as well as areas important to the communities for cultural and other social values.

Will there be clear-cuts like we used to see in and around Whistler?
Definitely not. The Cheakamus Community Forest silviculture plan (how trees are cut and what is replanted) calls for small openings from 2 to 5 hectares.

Does this mean Whistler can stop logging in the area?
No. The Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) is an equal partnership between the RMOW, Lil’wat Nation and Squamish Nation. Decisions are made by the partners, not the RMOW alone. As well, the community forest tenure carries a legal obligation mandated by the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations to harvest 20,000 m3 of wood per year, which is substantially less than has been harvested in the past by private companies. Through updated analysis of the land base based on community values, the Cheakamus Community Forest successfully negotiated with the Ministry of Forests and Range to reduce the amount of timber to be cut in the area from between 33 to 36,000 m3 to 20,000 m3. If the community forest did not exist, private companies could be harvesting up to that amount each year with extremely limited input from Whistler.

The community forest partners hold the community forest tenure in an incorporated Limited Partnership. The Cheakamus Community Forest Society is responsible for planning, management, and operations. The Cheakamus Community Forest Society has contracted the operations to a local forestry operator – Richmond Plywood.

Is old growth forest being logged?
Harvesting of some old growth trees will occur, but there will not be large clear cut openings as has been done in the past, and the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) is focusing as much as possible on second growth areas. Approximately 50 per cent of the CCF land is old growth forest, particularly in the upper elevations. To minimize the impacts of harvesting and place priority on community values, the community forest continues to develop its ecosystem-based management plan with EcoTrust Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a conservation economy, based on small-scale, sustainable harvesting that Richmond Plywood has committed to carrying out. The partners are particularly interested in small group selection, variable retention and shelterwood silviculture systems, and managing for visual quality, watersheds, recreation and cultural values.

As the tenure holder, the CCF partners will set the standards for harvesting in line with their sustainability and cultural goals, an opportunity that does not exist 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.

Based on this foundation, a silviculture plan was developed that complements these goals. It employs small openings of two to 5 hectares using selective and shelterwood harvesting methods, meaning that trees will be left throughout each cut block site.  Here’s a breakdown:

Remaining Old Growth Area (ha) in the Community Forest – 2009 EBM Plan

28% Coastal Western Hemlock, Southern Dry Maritime
52% Coastal Western Hemlock, Southern Moist Submaritime
85% Mountain Hemlock
100% Englemann Spruce, Subalpine Fir

The RMOW Council-appointed Forest &Wildlands Advisory Committee (FWAC) will provide advice and input to the management of the community forest, along with the First Nations’ referral committees. The public is welcome to contact FWAC members to provide comment. They can do so by contacting AWARE or WORCA which both have permanent seats on FWAC or by contacting Heather Beresford at the RMOW (604-935-8374 or hberesford@whistler.ca).

How much land will be affected by harvesting 20,000 cubic metres?

A typical 40′ utility pole contains about 0.7 m3. A logging truck carries about 40 m3.  A rough estimate of the land harvested through the community forest Annual Allowable Cut of 20,000 m3 is 40 hectares at 500 m3 per hectare. The community forest land base is approximately 30,000 hectares.

What is Ecosystem Based Management, or EBM?
Ecosystem Based Management is the gold standard in sustainable forestry. It is fundamentally about ensuring that the entire ecosystem is fully functional and protected through all current and future forest development. It is about going from volume-based to value-based forestry.

The Cheakamus Community Forest and other stakeholder groups, in consultation with the not-for-profit policy group Ecotrust Canada, has designed and implemented an EBM strategy to harvest level that will not harm sensitive habitat, destroy viewscapes, scenery or ignore First Nation cultural values.

What is the Forest Stewardship Plan, or FSP
A Forest Stewardship Plan is required by government before the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) can operate. It is the guiding management document written by the CCF and approved by the Ministry of Forests & Range that directs how the community forest will be managed. Under the Forest and Range Practices Act, the results and strategies in FSPs must be consistent with government objectives, which address values such as cultural heritage resources, soils, water, fish, wildlife, biodiversity, timber, forage, recreation, resource features, and visual quality. The FSP was developed using the ecosystem based management plan and describes how the community forest will meet the government objectives through its forest practices.

What is certification by the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC?
The partners are preparing to have the 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.

For more information on FSC, click here

How does operating a community forest meet Whistler’s sustainability initiatives?
Building on Whistler2020 as a foundation, the community forest will refer to the sustainability plan in its decision-making process, as well as the XayTemixw Land Use Plan (Squamish), and the Lil’wat Land Use Plan, which all articulate the importance of sound land management to support the long-term economic, social and ecological viability of the communities.

The following community stewardship and management objectives will be used to guide the management of the Cheakamus Community Forest:

  • To support Whistler’s community sustainability initiatives by ensuring that Whistler’s 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 Cheakamus Community Forest?
    The total area for the Cheakamus Community Forest is about 30,000 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.

    How is the public being engaged in the proposed harvesting plans?
    The Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) is committed to working with area residents and stakeholders. It will hold at least two open houses each year – one in the spring before harvesting takes place, and one in the fall to review the season. In autumn 2010, the CCF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WORCA about how the two will work together, and a permanent seat for WORCA was created on the RMOW Forest &Wildland Advisory Committee (FWAC) which meets monthly to review all forestry issues in the area and reports to Council. AWARE also has a permanent seat on FWAC. The CCF continues to work with commercial recreation operators like Canadian Wilderness Adventures (previously Canadian Snowmobile Adventures), Blackcomb Snowmobiles and others, plus has an extensive mailing list that receives updates and the annual reports.

    If you would like to be added, please contact the CCF by pressing here.

    Or, mail your questions and concerns to:

    Cheakamus Community Forest
    c/o Resort Municipality of Whistler
    4325 Blackcomb Way
    Whistler, B.C.
    V0N 1B4

     

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