The Village of Pemberton (VOP) is taking the next step in investigating whether it should develop a community forest.

While past councils have looked at the issue over the years, the VOP recently heard presentations from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) on the application process. B.C. Timber Sales has also approached the VOP about possible partnership opportunities, according to Sheena Fraser, manager of corporate and legislative services for the VOP.

“This prompted council to re-open discussion on this initiative and direct staff to undertake further research, which resulted in a recommendation to council to consider undertaking a feasibility study,” Fraser said, in an email. “The results of the feasibility study and public consultation will determine whether the village proceeds with this process.”

Now the VOP has put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Community Forest Feasibility Study, seeking forestry companies or people with a forestry background to gather information and determine what the cost of the project would be, among other factors. Ideally, the successful applicant will also have experience working with community forests in other communities. “It will also provide the village with a business model and partnership options for consideration,” Fraser added.

The MFLNRO has slated locations in Pemberton (still to be finalized) for logging in the future. One of the benefits of taking on that land as a community forest is to have control over the management of operations.

There could also be economical benefits to locals, Fraser said. “It could also help the village realize opportunities to develop forestry-related employment and possible recreation areas within the proposed CF (community forest) area, as well as generate revenue from the wood fibre, depending on the markets,” she said.

The public will be consulted as part of the feasibility study and throughout the process, should the VOP move forward, she said. “Public consultation is a priority of the Village of Pemberton and is a requirement of the Community Forest Application process, and therefore will be factored into all aspects of the work on this project, including the feasibility study,” Fraser said. “Feedback from the community on this initiative is needed to understand whether or not there is sufficient community support to proceed.”

Back in 2012, the council at the time was considering allocating $100,000 for studies and plans to produce a Community Forest Agreement Application, but in the end they decided it was too costly. At that time, the VOP had several projects on the go and decided to use money elsewhere.

“Depending on the results of the feasibility study, council will make a determination as to next steps,” Fraser said. “It is anticipated that the next steps will span multiple years, as will the costs associated with these steps, which will lessen the impact on funding this project.”

Agreements with local governments — or other bodies representing the community’s interest — over community forests are granted for 25 years, replaceable every 10 years.

The deadline for applying for the RFP is Thursday (March 19).