The District of Squamish and the Squamish Nation are moving forward on plans for a community forest.

District council passed resolutions at its special meeting Tuesday to establish the Squamish Community Forest Corporation, a general partner equally owned by the district and the Squamish Nation. Council also resolved to approve the shareholder agreement between the Nation and the district and approve the limited partnership agreement between the district and Northwest Squamish Forestry Limited.  

“A community forest is essentially a forest that is managed by in our case a partnership with the Squamish Nation and us,” Mayor Patricia Heintzman told The Squamish Chief. “The idea is it runs like a forest company… except that you have the ability to infuse community values and you can use it as a showcase.” 

Heintzman said the Nation and district would come to further agreement on details of their shared values but they would include trail, habitat and recreation values, she said.

The exact location and a management plan for the forest has yet to be finalized, Heintzman added. 

For years, councils and community groups have discussed the idea of a revenue-generating, co-managed forest that could be sustainably logged. In 2005, the Ministry of Forests offered the district the chance to submit an application for a community forest with an annual allowable cut of 10,000 cubic metres – or approximately 240 logging truckloads. 

The Squamish Nation is offering 10,000 cubic metres to be transferred from its forest license. Thus, the allowable cut will be 20,000 cubic metres or 480 logging truckloads. Working together to create a joint community forest was an item in the 2011 accord between the Nation and the district. 

In May of 2014, council endorsed execution of a limited partnership agreement and a shareholder agreement, but those motions needed to be updated, according to district staff. 

For the Squamish Nation, partnering agreements such as this are a way to address historical wrongs.

“For many years, our members had seen much of our resources driven through the reserves on the big trucks loaded with old-growth forests where many people became very affluent,” said hereditary Chief Ian Campbell. “Both in Vancouver with the early pioneering days right through to present times where our members were quite dismayed at what they equated to stealing from our breadbasket, from our homelands.”

Agreements are a way to reframe the problem, Campbell said.

In about 2003, the Nation started to address what Campbell called “the war of the woods” where environmental groups and forestry companies squared off over protection of forests.

“We side with both,” he said. “We believe in finding the balance of protection of some of the last remaining old-growth forest in our territory, and we also believe in business. We have always utilized the forests’ products. We’ve always managed our resources with the stewardship built into our heredity system.”

Campbell said he is excited to see what evolves from the community forest, “because a lot of our young people have expressed a desire to be working outside as their forefathers have done for so many years. You know, they witnessed their grandparents working hard, earning a great living, providing for their families and I think that resonates for a lot of our young people to find that kind of opportunity.”

The Squamish and District Forestry Association supports the community forest plan. “The Forestry Association and its predecessor organizations have been longstanding supporters and participants in efforts to establish a Squamish Community Forest,” read an emailed statement to The Squamish Chief. “The association especially endorses the public education aims of the venture, in addition to its business and multiple use land management objectives.” 

The Squamish Nation already has a partnership with the Lil’wat First Nation and the Resort Municipality of Whistler for the Cheakamus Community Forest Limited Partnership.

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