The Tumbler Ridge Community Forest is expanding.

Recently, the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations allocated 15,500 cubic meters of coniferous volume and 2000 cubic meters of deciduous volume to the annual allowable cut that the Tumbler Ridge Community Forest is allowed to harvest.

This bumps the total annual allowable cut for the community forest to 35,500 cubic meters.

That’s about 75 percent more harvest, says Community Forester, Duncan McKellar.

He says, while this isn’t really enough to support a full-time logging outfit, it is a nice bump to the size of the community forest.

“For three or four years we’ve been working on this,” he says. “We’ve gone down to Victoria to talk to the minsters, we’ve talked to the ministry people…. Basically any chance we’ve had to tell people our story, which was the Community Forest wasn’t large enough to be a going economic concern at 20,000 meters.”

McKellar says the increase isn’t quite what they were hoping for. “We advocated for at least double the size; we got about 75 percent increase in cut, up to 35,500, plus we’re going to get 2,000 metres of deciduous along with that. We’re not going to be a huge supplier, but there’s more of an opportunity for people to buy a machine and help out, if they can do work with someone else as well.”

There was, says McKellar, about 31,000 cubic meters of volume alloted to the two Community Forests in Timber Supply Area 41: Tumbler Ridge and Little Prairie Community Forests. “There was some volume left in the Timber Supply Area; they allocated half to us and half to Little Prairie,” he says.

The volume was split evenly between the two.

Now, he is looking at areas around town that would allow the Community Forest to meet this additional volume. “We have to find areas adjacent to our space that will be sustainable. It’s our job to go and find places and suggest to the ministry which areas would work for us. We have an area-based license. We do our own analysis and look at how sustainable it is. We reanalyzed our area two years ago, and the area could actually sustain more than 20,000 cubic metres.”

In addition, says McKellar, there is a chance that the Community Forest may be getting another uplift to harvest beetle kill trees in the area.

“In the last five years, we’ve harvested 245,000 cubic metres,” he says. “We should have harvested 100,000. That extra 145,000 cubic metres was for beetle kill. We’ve asked for another uplift of 80,000 meters. If we take those dead trees out, we can still have a harvest level of 20,000.”

He says the damage being done by pine beetle is dropping off. “There’s not lot much green attack for pine beetle, but we’re calculating four or five years worth of value for these beetle killed trees as timber, which is why we’re trying to get this uplift.”

He says as they log more and more stands of dead pines, there are fewer and fewer patches to log. “The complexity is the dead trees we see are dead pine in a spruce stand. We’re getting more and more spruce and less and less pine. How far in do you go? You don’t want to harvest to heavily, because you want to have some tomorrow.”

This work has yet to be approved, but he is hoping that can be done over the next few years before the wood loses its value completely.

The Community Forest has also been logging around town as part of the District’s Fire Mitigation effort. McKellar says they’ve been working hard to manage these areas for a variety of values, including visual and recreational, and have done their best to leave trees standing, though in many areas most of the trees are dead or dying.

Currently, they are logging a lock down by the Horse Stables. “After that’s done, there’s one more area down by the Co-op Card Lock that has a lot of dead trees in it. That’s the last stand we need to harvest. I’m sure there’s going to be smaller areas where we do smaller scale treatment, like taking branches off, or cutting down one or two dead trees, but that’s the majority done.”

McKellar says the Community Forest is being managed for a number of different reasons, and the benefits to the community is not just the opportunity for working in logging. “It needs to be big enough for people to come here. It’s still not quite large enough yet for that, but it’s starting to have that magnetism.”

He says its hard to hire locally, because there are not a lot of locals. And it’s hard for them to hire a logging truck here, a skidder there. “I hire the contractor. If you do every step, it becomes cost prohibitive. We try and get contractors to hire local people, but it’s difficult, because it’s hard to do it full time. We started logging down by the stable last month, and we’ll be done next month. We have one more block this winter, then we have a hiatus of six months. If you want to work 12 months a year, it’s not possible.

He says he would be open to working with locals interested in trying new things. “If someone approaches the Community Forest and says they want a small block to try A, B or C, we can do that. We could have done that before the added volume.”

McKellar says the other piece of it is the revenue that comes in. “Having double the size means even more revenue directly to the community for its activities. If you just want dollars, sometimes the best bet is to put it out on the market, but sometimes price isn’t everything. Sometimes you want a special project done a special way, or a contractor will hire more locals. We have to balance all these things.”