Course:FRST370/Community Forestry in Squamish, British Columbia: Social Impacts on the Local People

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Community Forestry in Squamish, British Columbia: Social Impacts on the Local People

This case study examines community forestry in Squamish, British Columbia. The case study covers the cultural and employment impacts that both the indigenous and current settlers face in the wake of new tenure agreements. Through government and the First Nation’s reinforcement, more and more of the adjacent surrounding forests are under increasing control of the community. This has provided significant benefits to the community of Squamish, in the form of employment opportunities through industrial logging processes and preservation of historical spiritual sites, but also various negative impacts. Many stakeholders such as the Interfor Corporation have sold their tree farm licenses to the Squamish First Nation, benefitting the forests in the Squamish territory through reduced extraction activity and stricter management efforts. Many of the surrounding old growth forests are well over a thousand years old, so careful management will be critical to saving them.


Squamish is a town 70km north of Vancouver and just south of Whistler, has a population of 19,893 (District of Squamish, 2019). Of the population of Squamish, 3600 are from the Squamish Nation (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw), indigenous to the area (Cheakamus, 2017). The population of the Squamish Nation is scattered among nine communities stretching from North Vancouver to the northern area of Howe Sound. The area was originally inhabited by a group of Central Coast Salish people, the Squohomish (Artibise, 2007). Squamish is derived from that native word meaning “mother of the wind” due to the strong winds that frequent the Howe Sound. The first European settlers arrived and settled in Squamish in 1888, and was first called Newport, but the old name of Squamish was eventually restored. The town of Squamish was officially incorporated as a district municipality in 1964 (Artibise, 2007). Squamish includes 6,732 km² of forests that surround its town. In those forests are 8 provincial parks such as the Stawamus Chief and Garibaldi Provincial Park. As of today, the main industries around Squamish are all forestry related, including logging, milling, and pulp production.

Prior to recent tenure agreements, most of the forests surrounding Squamish were owned by the province and private companies, specifically the Ministry of Forests and the Interfor Corporation. These two stakeholders had most of the forests under their control and many locals and indigenous people in the area saw very few social or economic benefits from the harvesting of the forests. The Squamish First Nation had no control of their own forests up until the past decade after conflicts and clashes between loggers and protesters at the turn of the century.

Tenure arrangements

Boundary of TFL 38

Surrounding Squamish are forests that are controlled by different actors. North of Squamish is a 330 km² of forests that is managed by the Cheakamus Community Forest (Cheakamus, 2017). This is a Co-management between the Squamish First Nation, Lil’ Wat nation and Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) when they jointly signed a 25-year tenure with the provincial Ministry of Forests and Range in April 2009. Before this tenure agreement was signed, most of the forests around squamish was governed by the provincial government. This was the year where the passing of Bill 13 in the provincial legislature allowed new community forest agreements to be eligible for 25 year, renewable licenses compared to the 5 year license prior (Cheakamus, 2017). The forest east of Squamish is currently under the control of the provincial government, but recently in May 2019, there have been talks about expanding community forestry to a majority of Squamish’s forests. If these new community forest ideas go on as planned, it will allow the Squamish Nation and District of Squamish to govern a large part of forest which was previously controlled by the province. This partnership will be able to govern the forest via their oversight company, the Squamish Community Forest Corporation. Those forests currently are managed by the BC Timber Sales, which is a provincial organization which issues volume-based concession licences and where local governments do not get a share of profits from their own forests.

A part of forest north west of Squamish is owned by the Squamish First Nation. In 2005, the Interfor Corporation sold their Tree Farm License (TFL) to the Squamish First Nation for $6.5 million in the form of cash, transfer of liabilities, and a log supply agreement. A tree farm license is a tenure that is area based where it grants its holders exclusive rights to harvest timber, manage, and conserve forest resources in a given area of land (Ministry of Forests, 2018). This part of the forest north west of Squamish is under TFL 38, where close to 1800 km² of forest is now under the control of the Squamish Nation, including the Squamish, Sims, Ashlu, and Elaho watersheds, giving them full rights to manage and harvest that area of forest and benefiting the local economy (Ministry of Forests, 2018). This transfer of forest to the Squamish Nation was formally approved by the B.C. Minister of Forests and Range.

Administrative arrangements

Cheakamus Community Forest

Cheakamus Community Forest

The CCF is managed by the Lil’wat, Squamish First Nation and Resort Municipality of Whistler. These three equal partners oversee the management and operation of the forest that lies just north of Squamish. The Cheakamus community forest is one of more than 60 community forests in British Columbia that shares information, identify, and resolve issues with the community. Whistler and the two neighbouring First Nations negotiated a partnership based on the common belief that the people of the region, as opposed to a logging company, should manage the forest harvesting according to their values and benefits.  The CCF First Nations’ partners with forestry companies to have responsible, innovative and sustainable forestry practices including harvesting activities that are compliant with the CCF’s Ecosystem Based Management (EBM). 5,000 hectares are protected from being commercially harvested.Under this management, an average of 40 hectares per year could be harvested (Cheakamus, 2017). Compared this from the 1970s to 1990s, 200 hectares of timber were logged annually in and around Whistler (Cheakamus, 2017).

TFL 38

Under the ownership of the Squamish Nation with its company Northwest Squamish Forestry Limited Partnership, they have the right to cut 109,000 cubic meters of timber annually along with another 98,000 cubic meters acquired through license clawbacks under the Forest and Range agreement (Mitchell, 2005). Even though Interfor sold the tenure to log this part of the forest to the Squamish Nation, they still have first call on the harvested raw logs. Under the new ownership, the Squamish Nation is committed to preserve the Upper Elaho and Sims valleys, as well as committing to sustainable logging practices. The Squamish Nation is in charge of managing the resource values in the area, and provide Interfor with a continuing supply of timber to support its milling and export operations. This benefits the Squamish community as it provides local employment to the forest industry with the opportunity for increased employment because the second growth forest will be ready to harvest in 15-20 years.

Affected Stakeholders

Squamish First Nation/Northwest Squamish Forestry Ltd 

Their overarching goal was to create sustainable employment and education opportunities for community members, increase participation of First Nations in the management and decision making of their local forests, and create long term economic development, all whilst preserving the culturally and spiritually significant sites and maintaining the forests' intrinsic values (Chua, 2018). Essentially wanted to create a balance of forest harvesting and maintaining stakeholder values.


These included people who had been living in the Squamish town for many years, together with residents who had recently moved from the greater Vancouver region, for retirement or quieter atmosphere. They represented a much broader range of public interests as the old residents were advocating for more economic and infrastructure development, whilst the new residents were more concerned with retaining a small town atmosphere, and developing recreational sites and green spaces eg Hiking trails, Golf Course (Pierce and Dale, 1999).

International Forest Products (Interfor)

They previously owned and managed the rights to harvest TFL 38, but due to increasing pressures from environmental groups and protestors, made the decision to sell the tenure to Squamish First Nation. However the company's mills and export operations are still functioning, and they have managed to retain access to raw logs within the forest, hence their affected stakeholder position (Mitchell, 2019).

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Logging in Squamish, BC

Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW)

This government agency was mainly concerned with establishing a framework for stronger government-to-government relationships. Their primary objectives were to build a tripartite relationship, between RMOW, Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation and address key issues of mutual interest including intergovernmental coordination, land use planning and management, economic development and transportation initiatives (Resort Municipality of Whistler, 2018).

District Municipality of Squamish

The District of Squamish seeks to represent the local community and continue to build a strong relationship with the Squamish Nation founded in respect and recognition of their cultural history. They were focused on encouraging the expression of Squamish Nation culture, heritage and values whilst also addressing land use, economic development, tourism promotion and provision of municipal services(Part 4 Policies and Objectives). They are linked to the forest through connectedness with the First Nation groups, but to not have any long term dependency on the forest area and hence fall into the affected stakeholder group.

Provincial Ministry of Forestry and Range

This provincial agency entered an agreement with the 3 Sea-to-Sky governments to harvest 21,000 cubic metres annually within the tenure area(About Cheakamus Community Forest, 2019). They are not involved in the governance of this community forestry area, nor do they share in the benefits, but as they issued the tenure license they were involved and have an interest in the well-being and sustenance of this community forest.

BC Timber

Traditionally forests in the Squamish region fell under BC Timber Sales, and they had the power to issue forestry related contracts and tenure agreements, which they gave to businesses with the best bid, not necessarily local organizations. If the Community forestry vision is realised, the district can give priority to local corporations allowing economic benefits to stay in Squamish (Chua, 2019).


Aims and Goals

The main objectives in establishing this Community Forestry agreement were to create sustainable employment opportunities for the local community members, through forest related activities. In order to achieve this effectively however, they needed increased participation of community and First Nations in the management of forests (Ambus, 2008). An important consideration was to create a balance of forest harvesting so these economic benefits may be realised, whilst also maintaining stakeholder values and protecting the many distinct forest ecosystems and intrinsic values from commercial harvest (Cheakamus Community Forestry, 2017).


Brohm Lake hiking trail near Squamish, BC

With the establishment of the Cheakamus Community Forest, they have managed to achieve several of their original goals. Long term economic development and local employment  has been established across the province with the forest industry accounting for a total of 140,000 jobs (Ritchie, 2017) , although it is more difficult to accurately pinpoint how many Squamish residents are employed through the forestry sector.

There has also been a drastic increase in education levels, as the proportion of University educated residents has nearly doubled since 2006. Over half (53.4%) of adults living in Squamish, aged 25-64, have received a post secondary education, which is a significant increase from 40.5% in 2006 (District of Squamish, 2019).

There is now a vast network of single-use and multi-purpose trails for walking, hiking, mountain biking, dirt biking, and horseback riding (District of Squamish, 2019). Located in a pristine area, it is the outdoor and recreation capital of Canada, containing six Provincial Parks, three BC Recreation Sites, two Ecological Reserves, and dozens of Community Parks located in or very near to Squamish (District of Squamish, 2019).


The tenure systems were designed for the purpose of industrial timber harvesting operations by large well established forestry companies. This meant that tenure arrangements were poorly suited for a community forestry system where they were more concerned with small-scale holistic forestry. They did not have the economies of scale allowing them to successfully compete in international markets, which was definitely a big limitation when the Community Forest was first established (Ambus, 2008).

There were several issues arising with the transformation of governance structures for First Nation groups. They had a traditional system of governance prior to European settlement, involving a clan leader or a chief who was respected and had earned the right to govern his people. The new system of governance contained aspects of colonialism whereby First Nations were marginalized and received unequal sharing of the benefits (Pun, 2016).

Assessment and Recommendations

Currently, community forestry includes 2130 km² of Squamish forests. Over 4500 km² is still owned by private companies and the province and the local community is not benefiting from the remaining forests. The Squamish First Nation has a majority of the stake in the community forestry projects around Squamish. Overall, the Squamish Nation is doing the right things in trying to manage and preserve their own forests. Since 2005, they have reclaimed control over a third of land that was rightfully theirs to begin with. With continuing action towards sustainable logging and resource extraction methods, community forestry is benefitting the overall community. Preserving old growth forests and cultural sites is an important factor for the Squamish Nation as well. The provincial parks located in Squamish are protected by the province but the rest of the forests are targets for deforestation. During a recent trip to Squamish, forests [date?] surrounding public mountain biking trails are being clear cut and the community has to come in and prevent this. There have been open houses about community forestry in this area recently but more has to be done to prevent many of the old growth forests to be logged.

Recommendations for Squamish is for them to sign more community forest tenure agreements. Currently, only a third of Squamish’s forests are owned by the Squamish First Nation. Recent talks with the Squamish Nation and the government has this goal heading in the right direction but nothing is set until the forests surrounding Squamish have been signed over to the community. This however, is slowly becoming a reality but it has to be done sooner to prevent more destruction of the forests.

Another recommendation is trying to keep all of the fiber flow within Squamish to benefit the local community instead of the raw timber leaving Squamish. The movement of logs from location of harvesting point should all be done within Squamish. This can be monitored by the  Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (BCMFLNRO) in a database of all trees harvested and scales such as the tree’s location, size, and height (Benner, 2014). They examine the degree to which timber is retained for processing close to where the tree has been harvested. Having it milled and processed in Squamish can keep everything within the local economy, creating more jobs and benefiting the people.


1. Ambus, L. M. (2008). The evolution of devolution : evaluation of the community forest agreement in British Columbia (T). University of British Columbia. Retrieved from

2. Artibise, A. F., & Favrholdt, K. (2007, January 25). Squamish. Retrieved from

3. Benner, J., Lertzman, K., & Pinkerton, E. W. (2014). Social contracts and community forestry: how can we design forest policies and tenure arrangements to generate local benefits? Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 44(8), 903–913. doi: 10.1139/cjfr-2013-0405

4. Cheakamus Community Forest. (2017, March 9). RMOW Retrieved from

5. Chua, S. (2018, December 12). Squamish Nation and District Choose Governance of Community Forest. Glacier Community Media. Retrieved from

6. District of Squamish. (2019). District of Squamish. Retrieved from

7. McIlveen, K., & Bradshaw, B. (2009) Community forestry in British Columbia, Canada: the role of local community support and participation, Local Environment, 14:2, 193-205, DOI: 10.1080/13549830802522087

8. Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations. (2018, June 28). TFL 38. Retrieved from

9. Mitchell, A. (2005, December 23). Squamish Nation buys TFL 38 from Interfor. Retrieved from

10. Nikolakis, W., & Nelson, H. (2015). To log or not to log? How forestry fits with the goals of First Nations in British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 45(6), 639–646. DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2014-0349

11. Pierce, J. T., & Dale, A. (1999) Communities, Development, and Sustainability Across Canada. UBC Press. Retrieved from

12. Pun, S.B. (2016) The implications and challenges of First Nations forestry negotiations in British Columbia, Canada: The Tl’azt’en Nation experience, Journal of Sustainable Forestry, 35:8, 543-561, DOI: 10.1080/10549811.2016.1228071.

13. Resort Municipality of Whistler endorses protocol agreement with Lil'wat Nation and Squamish Nation. (2018, April 25). Retrieved from

14. Ritchie, H. (2017, October 11). Forestry contributes 140,000 jobs in BC. Retrieved from

15. Squamish Community Forest governance agreement is signed. (2019, April 16). District of Squamish. Retrieved from

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This conservation resource was created by Adrian Lee and Andrew Paul.