Course:FRST370/Projects/Bella Coola Community Forest, British Columbia, Canada: An Example of Sustainable Local Forestland Management
This case study explores Bella Coola Community Forest (BCCF) located within the Bella Coola Valley in British Columbia, Canada. It delves into the tenure agreement held by the non-profit entity, Bella Coola Resource Society (BCRS). The Bella Coola Community Forest Ltd. (BCCFL), a local company, is responsible for all management and administration of the daily activities occurring in the community forest for the benefits of its investors and the community. A main goal of the community forest is to benefit the local people and help boost local economies. In turn, the residents of the Bella Coola Valley are important actors within the context of this community forest. Through this case study, it can be inferred that strategies are being developed and implemented to fulfil the requirements of the locals and to sustainably manage the forest. This case study uses various forms of documentation to examine the efforts of the two entities— BCRS and BCCFL, as well as the Nuxalk First Nations to successfully maintain sustainable practices within the forest, so that all can benefit from it.
- 1 Description
- 2 Tenure arrangements
- 3 Administrative arrangements
- 4 Affected Stakeholders
- 5 Interested Stakeholders
- 6 Discussion
- 7 Assessment and Recommendations
- 8 References
Location and Demographics
Bella Coola Community Forest (BCCF) is located on the Central Coast of British Columbia, Canada— specifically between the Great Bear Rainforest and Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. It surrounds the Bella Coola Valley which encompasses Bella Coola (townsite), Nuxalk First Nations Reserve land, Nusatsum, Saloompt, Hagensborg, Firvale, and Stuie. To access the Bella Coola Valley, one must commute from Vancouver Island by BC Ferries, road access from Williams Lake, BC 500 kilometres away, or by air transport. The Bella Coola Valley happens to be the only land area in the Central Coast Regional District (encompasses Bella Coola, Bella Bella, Denny Island, Oweekeno, and Ocean Falls) that is accessible by road.  Evidently, Bella Coola Valley is not the easiest destination to travel to, therefore it is considered a very isolated area. The main town, Bella Coola is located on Bentinck Arm, at the mouth of the Bella Coola River.  According to P. McKim, there are approximately 3000 residents in the Bella Coola Valley.  The Nuxalk First Nations are the majority population. 
Geography, Topography, and Climate
The narrow Bella Coola Valley spans over 60 kilometres and is comprised of the Coast mountains, inland regions, and glacial rivers. It maintains a temperate climate with low levels of rain, as it is quite far inland from the coast.  The Community Forest is found on very steep mountainous terrain, which makes logging practices and road access very difficult. Therefore, most of the forest remains untouched and logging is less prevalent. The primary tree species within the forest are Douglas-fir and Western hemlock. The Valley lands are primarily used for fishing, forestry, and tourism.
The Bella Coola Valley and the Community Forest are situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Nuxalk First Nations. The Nuxalk have occupied the land since “time immemorial” and have never relinquished their land through war or treaty. They used the Bella Coola River as a trade corridor to exchange products with neighboring nations and the lands of the Valley and forest for subsistence farming and gathering food. Following 1848, Bella Coola became an important domain for trading and a centre for supplies to the surrounding communities. Then in 1867, the Hudson’s Bay Company implemented a trading post at the mouth of the Bella Coola River. Due to the economic depression in the United States, 80 Norwegian immigrants from Minnesota settled in the area in 1894. Prior to their arrival, there had only been eight non-native individuals occupying the area. With the rapid initial increase of non-native inhabitants, Bella Coola became one of the largest non-native settlement lands within all the Valley. The Norwegian settlers became the Valley’s first commercial loggers, farmers, and fishers. Following the settlement of the Norwegians, around the 1950s, commercial logging became the main activity in the Valley. Although, the harvesting practices consisted of high-grading timber and damaging clear cuts, thus severely degrading the forest. As a result, by the 1980s, the sustainability of local harvest rates was a great concern. Most of the forest licences were held by major forestry companies. Moreover, many of the timber production companies harvesting in the area were non-resident based, all the while, approximately 50% of Bella Coola residents were unemployed.
The area of which Bella Coola Community Forest lies upon is considered Provincial Crown Land, meaning the government has underlying legal tenure to the forest land. These Crown lands make up approximately 94% of the provincial forested land base. In the 1890s, the Provincial government began issuing logging licenses to private enterprises. Then in 1998, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations introduced a pilot project— the Community Forest program. Crown land was allocated by the Provincial government and issued through the form of a tenure or grant to the chosen client. These tenures are called a Community Forest Agreement (CFA), which are long-term, area-based forest licenses that give the recipient legal rights to harvest resources from a particular portion of provincial land. These licenses are often time limited and spatially defined. 
In the context of the Bella Coola Valley, the Bella Coola Resource Society (BCRS)— a non-profit organization made up of local people and property owners, holds a long-term Community Forest Agreement (CFA). Initially, in 2004, the BCRS applied for a five-year probationary license, to be granted by the Provincial Government. Now they are operating under a 25-year renewable license where they have been logging the area since 2007. The license primarily consists of the land within the Bella Coola Valley, including tributaries Nusatsum, Saloompt,, Noosgulch, Noomst. Parts of the west of Bella Coola along the North Bentinck Arm and Burke Channel— specifically Clayton Falls, Kwatna Inlet and Nooseseck Falls are also included in the licensed land. The total landbase of the BCRS CFA (K3K) is approximately 79,888 hectares (ha) but because of the very steep mountainous landscape, only 7.2% of that given area is used for timber production. The license gives the BCRS exclusive rights to an Annual Allowable Cut (AAC)— the amount of timber allowed for harvesting, which is 30,000 square metres.
In the context of the First Nations of the Bella Coola Valley, the Nuxalk First Nations first joined British Columbia’s pilot community forest program in 2000. By 2011, they were granted a Community Forest Agreement (K3H)—specifically, a 25-year Community Forest license to be held and managed by the Nuxalk Forestry Limited Partnership (NFLP)—an independent for-profit company, working on behalf of the Nuxalk First Nations tribe.  The licensed lands include the South Bentinck Arm and lower Talchacko Riverarea,which consists of a total land base of approximately 9,7000 hectares (ha) of Timber Harvesting land and 18,700 hectares (ha) of Productive Forests. The Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) for the NFLP is approximately 20,000 square metres. With control over the land, NFLP puts great emphasis on Aboriginal forestry practices that consist of meshing together traditional forest practice with traditional ecological values and knowledge. Recently, in 2016, BCRS and NFLP have come together to increase local economy by both working at the Clayton Falls dry land sort— one of the designated forest areas under the tenure.  The accessible information based on this collaboration between entities is sparse, which suggests that it is a relatively new arrangement and that more documentation should be released in order for the local residents to be kept fully informed.
Bella Coola Resource Society
As previously mentioned, the Bella Coola Resource Society (BCRS) holds the legal ownership of the community forest tenure. The Society itself, is comprised of 85 volunteers who are either residents or property owners of the Bella Coola Valley. The membership to participate in the BCRS is open to local individuals, with the goal to increase the participation and self-confidence of the community, and thus strengthen the local economy. The membership fee is only five dollars, so as to not exclude any financial group from participating in the activities within the BCRS. The organizational structure of the BCRS is simple, such that the members of the society elect the board of directors. The BCRS is responsible for annually reviewing the performance of the community forest. The society is entitled to a 15% share in profits generated from the productions within the forest, which is then distributed amongst the community through donations to community projects, charities, interests, and organizations. The primary focus of the BCRS is to enhance the quality of life of the Valley residents through achieving a self-reliant and sustainable community through the operations of a financially stable community forest.
Bella Coola Community Forest Ltd.
The next main entity within the Bella Coola Community Forest is the Bella Coola Community Forest Ltd. (BCCFL), whose primary responsibility is the management, administration, and operations of the community forest tenure. Community forestry can have serious financial, environmental, and safety risks and thus the forest is ideally managed by a separate entity. Similarly, like the BCRS, the BCCFL is comprised of local residents and property owners. The BCCFL pertains to a management agreement with the BCRS, thus the board of directors is established through the decision of local investors and the approval of the BCRS. Their objective is to generate a rate of return to the society to benefit the community. The forest company aims to boost the local economy; therefore, they employ local people and currently have approximately 20 Valley residents as seasonal to permanent workers. Moreover, as the BCCFL is responsible for the operations within the community forest, they make great efforts to obtain locally sourced supplies and machinery from the small businesses and entrepreneurs of Bella Coola. To maintain transparency and available upon request, the BCCFL is responsible for keeping the public informed on the activities going on within the forest.
The Advisory Committee for the Bella Coola Community Forest is comprised of local experts, knowledgeable individuals, and representatives who aid the BCCFL and BCRS in their forest land management practices by providing advice and criticism. Moreover, the committee will review any matters or plans for forest management.
Land Resource Use Plan
The Land Resource Use Plan (LRUP) was initiated in 1990, when residents and other user groups expressed concerns over the high levels of forest harvesting. The LRUP committee is chaired by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Mid Coast District Office. The two main goals of the plan were to protect the forest through sustainable forest management and ensure that resources go to the local community. Therefore, with the goals set in place, various objectives were designed to achieve them. Some of the objectives consisted of opportunities for harvesting, to include the First Nations people, protection of Aboriginal rights policy, to consider the views of the licensed resource users and to document procedures for development. Due to the low percentage of operable land in the Bella Coola Valley, sustainable forestry methods are required. Core principles of the forest management are to protect the integrity of wildlife habitats, maintain the Forest Service’s trails and recreation sites, ensure sustainable timber production, ensure proper maintenance of water quality, and to create and maintain employment opportunities for the local people. The Land Resource Use Plan Committee will aid in ensuring that those objectives for resource use and forest management are being used in practice by monitoring the forest. The monitoring committee is comprised of local people interested in maintaining the integrity of the forest, and this committee will conduct annual reviews of the plan.
A main resource that the community benefits from is the scraps left behind from timber production. Once logging procedures have occurred and the area is assessed for stumpage fees, the forest is open to the public for resource acquisition, under specific regulations. The leftover wood is used for fuel but to acquire it, a firewood permit is required. The permit is distributed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and is free of charge. One can also obtain firewood through purchase from the community forestry.
Within this case study, there are various affected stakeholders. An affected stakeholder is a person, a group of persons, or an entity that is likely to be directly affected by the effects of what occurs within the locally important or customarily claimed forested area.
Table 1: Affected Stakeholders of the Bella Coola Community Forest.
|Stakeholder||Primary Relevant Objective||Relative Power|
|Valley residents||- Sustainable forest management for community benefit (i.e. income, tourism, recreation)
- Emotionally connected to the land
|Pine mushroom collector||- Collect pine mushrooms within the old-growth forest to drive the local economy||Low|
|Nuxalk First Nations||- Ancestral connection with the land
- Maintain customary rights of the land
- Resource acquisition
- Maintain the ecological sustainability of the land
- Resource-based people
|Outdoor recreation user
(from the Valley)
|- Use of forest land for recreational purposes and enjoyment||Low|
|Bella Coola Resource Society (BCRS)||- Forest licence holder
- Possess a dependency on forest resources for their employment and to carry out their livelihoods
|Bella Coola Community Forest Ltd. (BCCFL)||- Maintain ecological resilience of the forested area through sustainable management practices and forest production operations
- Increase community benefit
|Forest operations workers
|- Maintain source of income for the purpose of their livelihood||Low|
|Local independent business owner/entrepreneur||- Depend on the BCCFL to purchase machinery and goods from their businesses.
- Provides owner with source of income
- Increases community confidence levels
|House of Smayusta||- Governing body of the Nuxalk First Nations
- Administer policies and mandates from the federal government
- Maintain a spiritual connection with the land
Affected stakeholders are those who typically live near enough to the community forest that they will be directly impacted by any changes that occur within the forest. In the case of Bella Coola Valley, one of the primary affected stakeholders who is most vulnerable to the impacts within the forest, are the residents as a whole. The purpose of this community forest is to drive local economy by providing the residents with employment – whether that is through the forest operations, independent businesses, or pine mushroom collection. Moreover, given the Valley is a very geographically isolated region, the residents depend on the resources of the forest for material purpose, food, and economic value— thus pertaining to their deep emotional connection with the land. Another primary affected stakeholder group is the Nuxalk First Nations. According to a case-study conducted by L. Penney, the Nuxalk occupy one of the last areas of Temperate rainforest left, therefore they place a great importance on maintaining the landscape for their traditional and spiritual connections, and resource acquisition. If the forest is degraded, then there is no foundation for their spiritual practices to be experienced thus contributing to their community being lessened. Their designated power level is low as research suggests that the Nuxalk First Nations input has not been properly integrated or in fact, listened to. Stakeholders that could be argued as a main affected actor could be the BCCFL and BCRS as they are entities made up of residents. Therefore, they both live and work in the area—maintaining a dependency on the forest resources. The BCCFL had a designated level of power of medium as they are under the authority of the BCRS who has ultimate power over the BCFFL and the forest tenure.
“An interested stakeholder is any person, group of persons, or entity that are interested or have shown interest in the activities of the forest area”. They live outside of the region affiliated with the forest area, and are thus not necessarily directly affected by the changes made within the area.
Table 2: Interested Stakeholders of the Bella Coola Community Forest.
|Stakeholder||Primary Relevant Objective||Relative Power|
|Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations||- Oversee allocation of land and ensures proper distribution of forest licences||High|
|Forest Operations companies (eg. Interfor and TimberWest)||- Production of timber as a source of income||Low|
|British Columbia Community Forest Association (BCCFA)||- Advocate for environmental stewardship of the land
- Organization of networks that manage or establish community forests
|Outdoor recreation user (not from Bella Coola Valley)||- Use of the forested area for enjoyment purposes and tourism
- Not a resident of the valley
|Environmentalist||- Concern for the sustainability of the community forest||Low|
|Vancouver A&A Trading Ltd.||- Use the production of timber from the forest to drive the market economy||Low|
|Government of British Columbia||- Legal title over the forest land in British Columbia||High|
An interested stakeholder is one that does not live near the community forest and therefore is not directly affected by alterations made within the forest.  Nevertheless, they may still maintain an emotional or important connection with the land, they just do not have a dependency on the forest resources. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations plays an important role within the community forest as it is the entity that allocates the forest tenures, but their overall interest in the well-being of the Bella Coola Community Forest is not very high. Their responsibility is to oversee the tenure arrangements of the Province therefore, they cannot provide their undivided attention to just one community forest. Stakeholders like forest operations companies (not from the area) or Vancouver A&A Trading Ltd. have great interest in the timber production of the community forest but if the timber ran dry, they could redirect their interest towards another community forest.
Aims and Intentions
The main aims and intentions of the Bella Coola Community Forest suggested by their management and land use plans, were to provide the community with benefits, and implement sustainable methods of timber harvesting and proper management of the forest resources. Community benefit was achieved in various ways and will be discussed further in the section regarding the successes of the community forest. Sustainable methods of timber production were attempted through keeping the productions in the local context. Log supply was mainly sent to local mills and the remaining portion was allocated to Vancouver log markets to be traded by companies like A&A Trading Ltd. Harvesting requires either a road or cutting permit and practices cannot interfere in maintaining the “free-to-grow” state of the forest. A greater focus on road access was desired by the community for timber production and recreation and thus was integrated into the community forest’s plan. Along with sustainable harvest rates, the maintenance of trails and recreation sites, as well as protection of wildlife habitats and biodiversity were desired.
A predominant reason for why the Bella Coola Community saw successes within their management plans was due to the support from the community. Local people helped raise funds for the community forestry project by performing fundraisers. The residents invested approximately $263,000 as seed capital to enable the creation of the BCCFL. According to Coast Mountain News, upon delivering a survey to the interested community members, around 95% of the residents indicated that they believe the forest management is beneficial for the community and 88% expressed that their expectations have been met by the management of the community forest. Following the active participation from the locals, came the benefit they received. The community forest achieved one of their main goals which was providing benefit to the local community. They executed this by ensuring that forest operations and productions were primarily done by residents. This provided the locals with employment opportunities that generated an income to support themselves and their families. Moreover, as mentioned before, they allowed the community to collect scrap wood from the forests as well to harvest non-timber forest products (NTFP) like pine mushrooms.
Some failures of the community forestry project were the lack of thorough communication of operational plans with the community members as well as involving the Nuxalk First Nations values in the forest management practices. In a survey conducted by the Bella Coola Community Forest Ltd., some of the feedback they received from the community indicated a need for greater communication with the residents on the operations within the forest. Some numerical values the residents would like to see are, annual harvest rates, volume sold to local entities, and funds allocated to the community. Another failure was the lack of including the values of the Nuxalk into the management plan. It was reported that sustainable practice on the land and employment opportunities would be promised to the Nuxalk but unfortunately, that did not occur. In 1996, during the creation of the Land Resource Use Plan, the Nuxalk did not actively participate in the planning process as they believed the main agencies involved did not recognize their Native Heritage or land claims, according to Chief Archie Pootlass (LRUPC, 1996, Appendix 3).
The community forest has encountered challenges regarding their connections with the Nuxalk people. As mentioned before, there has been an issue with the management practices not necessarily recognizing the values of the Nuxalk people. Additionally, the First Nations group depends heavily on forest resources for their traditional and daily use, and due to the over-exploitation occurring in the forest, they felt as though their human rights were being abused. Over the years, the House of Smayusta, has lobbied internationally to bring attention this issue. Another challenge faced by the BCCF was issues of depletion of forest resources. If resources are being depleted at a very high rate, such that regeneration rates are slower, harvesting rates will decrease after a while. If harvesting rates decrease that means there is potentially less employment opportunities for the local community. Finally, a challenge presented to the BCCF could be incorporating the concerns of the local community into the forest management plans. The community forest has made efforts to involve the local people through various meetings and surveys requiring their participation. In a meeting in 1996, the residents expressed their concerns. For example, concerns about the possible use of chemical fertilizers on the land, protection of wildlife corridors, and a larger emphasis on recreation and tourism.
Assessment and Recommendations
Based off the research performed on the Bella Coola Community Forest, the program has seemed to fulfil their goal of achieving benefits for their community. Although, to further incorporate the residents and achieve maximum benefits, they must be informed in the operations of the forest as they are directly affected by what changes are made to it. Based off feedback provided by the residents of Bella Coola at a meeting held by the BCCFL, better communication could be conveyed through newspaper articles, emailed reports, frequent updates on the BCCFL website, information sessions, school field trips, operation tours, and public presentations. To properly integrate the opinions and values of all stakeholders involved, meetings scheduled at a time suitable for the greatest ability of participation is required. That means scheduling the meeting so that it is after the typical work day and not during dinner time hours. Also, by planning a meeting time that is fixed (e.g. the third monday of every month) will ensure that all interested stakeholders are on the same time frame. These two methods will allow for a greater potential for all pertinent stakeholders to take part in the decision-making processes and have their opinions properly represented. Moreover, this means there could be a greater potential for First Nations actors to be involved in the process. It is beneficial for the community forest to involve the First Nations in the management process as it is their traditional land that they have occupied for thousands and thousands of years. Therefore, they are a group of individuals that are very knowledgeable of the geophysical properties of the land, and thus could provide their valuable skill to the management practices of the forest.
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