Cheakamus Community Forest in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
A forest license to harvest timber near the town of Whistler was made available by the Province of British Columbia in 2005, with an allowable annual cut of 10,000 m3 . Local concerns about the tenure were prominent due to the fact that the land was traditional territory of the Squamish and Lil’wat people . Thus driving the Squamish and Lil’wat first nations, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) to join together and partition for the forest license . In 2007, the community was offered a land tenure of 30,280 hectares from the provincial ministry of Forests and Range after establishing a plan for the governance of the forest, which took into account each stakeholders plan for the plot of land, with a great deal of value placed on Ecosystem Based Management which was the first forest in B.C to do so . The area based tenure was developed through the agreement of watershed protection, aesthetic, cultural values, and recreation, which eventually lead to 15,000 hectares being reserved as a protected area, excluding harvesting . The Cheakamus Community Forest was finally established in 2007, when the agreement with the Ministry of Forests and Range was finalized, with an impressive ~50% of the forest land protected as old growth forest, under the Ungulate Winter Range status designation . The Cheakamus Community Forest board of director’s place value in preserving the land by protecting viewsheds, important habitats, and ecosystem health by creating a 10 year harvesting plan, and maintaining constant communication with local stakeholders . The community forest provides approximately 850 individual jobs for local people, and 25% of those people are First Nations .
The ownership of land in British Columbia is 94% Provincial Crown Land and 1% Federal Crown Land, therefore, the provincial government of Canada has jurisdiction over the land in question.The provincial government has underlying tenure to the land, radical tenure. In 1998, the Ministry of Forests in British Columbia established a new form of land tenure which resulted in the expansion of community forestry . This was called the ‘pilot agreement’ because it was a new scheme that allowed communities to apply for a five-year Community Forest Agreement (CFA) . Under this agreement, the community would have a license to access the forest and harvest a specified amount .
Before the 1990s, extensive industrial logging across the coast of B.C. was causing degradation on several landscapes sparking public concerns, leading to the establishment of the ‘Forest Revitalization Plan’ . The ministry of Forests and Range reserved over 1 million cubic meters of timber for small tenures . The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations evaluate community forest applications under the Forest Act in Community Tenures Regulations . In 2005, 10,000 cubic metres of timber were reserved surrounding Whistler, and “the province offered Whistler, as well as the communities of Pemberton, and Squamish, an opportunity to submit a community forest proposal” . Together, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), Lil’Wat Nation, and Squamish Nation applied for a community forest encompassing 55,000 hectares . The amount of land reserved for the community forest was negotiated, and in 2009, a 33,000 hectares area-based tenure was given to the Cheakamus Community Forest . An 25-year tenure was signed with the provincial ministry of Forests and Range and the three groups . The RMOW, Squamish and Lil’Wat Nations equally manage and operate the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) under the Community Forest Agreement. . The area-based, long-term tenure allows access and management to the forest by the community, through the license. In 2009, the Forest Management Plan was established which declares he CCF is managed under a variety of principals: The planning and operations of the forest must have a ‘Ecosystem Based Management Plan’ (EBM), ensuring that the harvesting of the forest meets First Nation objectives and Whistler 2020 goals, local First Nations contracting is prioritized, forest operations primary objective is to respect the land and all stakeholders, all decisions made will include all parties opinions where possible, and finally, “each Partner’s unique community and cultural objectives, the planning costs associated with operating the CCF will be higher than in other forest harvesting operations. As a result, the Partners will endeavour to conduct sufficient forest harvesting so as not to operate at a loss and to support those enhanced planning costs.” .
The CCF is represented under the British Columbia Community Forest Association (BCCFA) that is a “unified voice for the interests of all B.C. communities engaged in community forest management as well as those seeking to establish community forests” (British Columbia Community Forest Association, n.d). The BCCFA is an independent, non-profit organization that functions under the BC Society Act (since April, 2002), the Act is made up of a constitution, and by-laws . The bylaws under the Society Act of British Columbia encompass 13 parts, and a total of 67 sub-sections. The 13 parts of the bylaws must be followed and obeyed by all members of the BCCFA. They can be found here link. The reason for these bylaws is to promote economic development in the community, help community foresters in establishing resources to assure success, ensure viability of the communities initiatives, and educate the people involve in the community forest . Under the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, there is a community forest agreement which includes a cutting permit (CP). The statutory agreement consists of a set of guidelines that must be followed by the holders of the tenure, such as scale-based stumpage, timber marks, permit area and term, roads, and harvesting operations . This agreement may be accessed here link
The allowable annual cut (AAC) is set at 20,000 m3 /year under the EBM plan approved by the provincial government . Under the CCF Ecosystem Based Management Plan "The CCF’s average annual fixed operating costs are approximately $60,000. This covers rents to the provincial government, insurance, administration, management costs, information database & mapping, public engagement programs, etc." .
The Cheakamus Community Forest is a non-profit group that manages the land . The CCF is represented by the British Columbia Community Forest Association (BCCFA), and managed under customary law where the three partners share equal power and responsibility in managing the land under the Society Act which is the by-laws for the British Columbia Community Forest Association . Under the Society Act, the members of the community forest agreement must “uphold the constitution and comply with these bylaws” . Part 3 of the Society Act states that “General meetings of the society must be held at the time and place, in accordance with the Society Act, that the directors decide. Every general meeting, other than an annual general meeting, is an extraordinary general meeting. The directors may, when they think fit, convene an extraordinary general meeting.” . Moreover, general meetings must specify the hour, day, and nature of business that the meeting will address . Part 3, section 15 states that the first meeting of the year must be held within 15 months of the previous annual meeting, and it is required for a “general meeting to be held at least once a year in every calendar year” . If there is not 5 or more members present at a general meeting, business is suspended until the bylaw can be met, “If within 30 minutes from the time appointed for a general meeting a quorum [5 memebers] is not present, the meeting, if convened on the requisition of members, must be terminated, but in any other case, it must stand adjourned to the same day in the next week, at the same time and place, and if, at the adjourned meeting, a quorum is not present within 30 minutes from the time appointed for the meeting, the members present constitute a quorum.” .
The Cheakamus Community Forest has a board of directors consisting of two members for each group: Chief Bill Williams and Jeff Fischer from Squamish Nations, Chief Dean Nelson and Kerry Mehaffey from Lil’wat Nation, and Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Sue Maxwell from Resort Municipality of Whistler . The directors are elected for a two-year term and allowed to serve for three consecutive two-year terms, however, they are required to retire for two consecutive two-year terms before they are eligible for re-election . In electing directors, the members of the CCF must “strive to attain: (a) a balance of geographic representation, (b) representation from both First Nation and non-First Nation communities, (c) representation from existing tenure holders, (d) representation from communities seeking to establish community forests, and (e) representation from a range of community forest sizes.” . The Society Act main goal for the bylaws is to reach absolute consensus on issues addressed by the board, and understand that in consensus decision-making there is various degrees of support (full agreement, ability to ‘live with’ decision, stand aside, not ready to decide, and not agree) therefore, when consensus cannot be met on a decision, the members not in favour of the subject must propose an alternative route . Moreover, if the board still lacks consensus, they will proceed with a 66% majority vote . The general public has the ability to engage in the harvesting plans that the CCF proposes by attending open houses that take place twice annually . Local organizations in Whistler such as The Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA), Forest & Wildlife Advisory Committee (FWAC), and Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) works with the CCF members to review all forest related issues in the area and report all findings to the Council . The CCF works with 34 stakeholders to discuss management plans and maintain communication to assure the CCF is reflecting local peoples value's . Annual reports consisting of meeting minutes, harvesting plans, maps, and project information are distributed to the public and updated on the CCF website .
The affected stakeholders in this community forest are the First Nations groups that hold 2/3 of the tenure. The Squamish Nation has 23 villages which encompass 2,828 hectares in Howe Sound and surrounding Squamish land . The First Nations take honour in a long history of “settlements, resource sites, and spiritual and ritual places of our ancestors, including villages, hunting camps, cedar bark gathering areas, rock quarries, clam processing camps, pictographs and cemeteries [on their land]. Some of these village sites date back 3000 years” . The Squamish Nation established a ‘land use’ plan in 2001 with 4 land use zones: wild spirit places, restoration areas, sensitive areas, and forest stewardship zones (Squamish Nation: Our land, 2017). The Squamish Nation values all of the ecological aspects of their forest, as well as their culture and heritage, the land has been providing them with timer for building, fishing, spiritual rituals, and shelter for over 3000 years . The Squamish Nation relies heavily on the resources provided by this land. The First Nations group plans on restoring the forests wildlife habitats all while sustainably using the resources it provides such as water, clean air, and fishing . The second affected stakeholders are the Lil’Wat Nation, located 30 minutes north of Whistler, the Traditional Territory occupies 791,131 ha of land . The Lil’wat Nation uses a Community Land Use Plan (CLUP) to manage the forests, they plan on expanding their community land project to minimize impacts on aquatic habitat and to restore degraded fish habitat . They also plan on protecting the aesthetically pleasing view of the forest from harvesting, and plan on mapping out medical NTFPs . The First Nation group values their cultural sites and wants to manage the forest in a way to mitigate impacts on those traditional spiritual sites . Plans are being constructed to “Improve communication between Nation staff involved in the forestry sector and the community members” . The group has various actions outlines in the CLUP such as “establish[ing] a specifically controlled area for firewood cutting,” protection of old growth forests by establishing reserves, and develop restoration plans for sites harvested in the past . The land has been used by many generations of the Li’Wat peoples, and continues to be. The current generation of Lil’wat people require the resources this land provides in order to prosper, and plan on assuring the resources will be there or many generations of Lil’Wat peoples to come.
The interested stakeholders in this community forest is the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW). The RMOW is the municipal government, which means the local government is part holder of the small tenure surrounding Whistler. Tthe RMOW has interest in the land due to high tourism in the area, the Village of Whistler relies heavily of tourism all year long. The RMOW signed a 25-year tenure with the province to oversee the operations and management of the forest that is visible from the resort . The RMOW values cultural assets, wildlife habitat, viewsheds, recreation amenities, and watersheds . The local government must provide trouists with an outdoor retreat consisting of beautiful views and recreation (hiking trails, mountain biking trails, ski resort), therefore, industrial forestry in the surrounding landscape would likely effect tourism. Another interested stakeholder in this case is commercial forest companies. Due to the history of industrial forestry in the area, various companies were interested in harvesting the forest surrounding Whistler. If a commercial company were to sign the land tenure opposed to the CCF, extensive logging would be taking place in the area, with a high AAC, leading to possible forest degradation and negative affects on the local watershed. The BCCFA is an independent organization that advocates for Indigenous peoples rights and environmental stewardship across all community forests in British Columbia. Government agencies such as the Ministry of Forests and Range, and the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy have interest in this land due to the EBM plans. Since the government has underlying tenure, the management techniques and harvesting plans are important to these ministries. The Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA), Forest & Wildlife Advisory Committee (FWAC), and Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) are local organizations that address possible concerns or opinions on the management plans, however, changes to the forest do not directly impact their livelihoods.
The guiding principals of the Cheakamus Community Forest is to promote ecological, cultural, and economical forestry that practices sustainability and participation of all stakeholders. The representation of First Nation values and traditions is the driving forces behind the governance of CCF . The CCF current Annua Allowable Cut (AAC) is 40% lower than the previous tenure holders that practiced industrial forestry. Clear cut logging took place from 1931-1950 with extensive harvesting in what is now known as Whistler Village . From 1951- 1970, the logging in the coastal mountains surrounding Whistler was effecting the watersheds such as the Cheakamus River valley, Brandywine valley, and the Rutherford Valley . From 1970-1990, harvesting technology was changing from railway transportation to truck and barge transportation on the Squamish highway and Howe Sound, causing increased degradation to the forest ecosystem and aquatic habitats . The pace of harvesting was decreasing post 1990s due to the increased concerns of the visual impact of industrial harvesting in the area sparked by rapid urbanization . Due to the history of industrial forestry in the area, the members of CCF had growing concerns of further ecosystem degradation and effects on local watersheds, and viewsheds, if industrial forestry companies received the tenure . 15,000 hectares, nearly half of the total land managed by CCF, is now protected from being commercially harvested . Approximately 40 hectares of forest will be harvest annually, which is 80% less than what was harvested annually from the 1970s-1990s . The change of land management from commercial to local is benefiting biodiversity, and local people, including the First Nation groups that have traditional ties to land relating back to 3000 years ago . Using consensus-based management recognizes all stakeholder opinions and reflects local values on local land. Not only if the change is land tenure benefitting the biodiversity of the forests, but it is also advocating for the Indigenous peoples traditional rights. The CCF has also created 831 jobs, being that 25% of them are held by First Nation peoples, and 75% are held by local peoples.
The Board of Directors for the Cheakamus Community Forest have equal standing for all three groups, Resort Municipality of Whistler, Squamish Nation, and Lil’wat Nation. The directors that represent RMOW are Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Sue Maxwell. Wilhelm-Morden is the Mayor of Whistler, and Maxwell is a Councillor for the local government, RMOW . Having local government representation for a community forest with elected officials secures fairness and proper representation of First Nation groups in regards to the land tenure. The Squamish Nation has Chief Bill Williams and Jeff Fisher on the board of directors. The Lil’wat Nation have Chief Dean Nelson and Kerry Mehaffey on the board of directors for CCF . The RMOW board of directors prioritizes the economic value of tourism that is provided by the recreational access of the CCF, as well as the local support due to the CCFs values such as protecting the watershed and viewsheds . The Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation prioritize sustainable use of the forest and increased job opportunities for their peoples . Having the local government and two First Nation groups on the board of directors assures benefits for local people in the town of Whistler, and the proper representation of traditional rights to the land. Effective governance between the three members is successful due to the Society Act which states all customary laws that must be followed under the BCCFA. Having a diverse representation of directors assures a fair consensus for decision making that incorporates the values of a broad spectrum of stakeholders. If the CCF only had members from the local government then the management decisions are more likely to be bias, swaying towards actions that have the greatest economic incentives. In contrast, having members that only represent First Nation groups have a higher chance of bias as well due to management that benefits their peoples and not necessarily all local people. Having the CCF work with local organizations in the area such as WORCA, AWARE, and FWAC allows local people to engage in the consensus .
With specialized knowledge and strong traditional values held in place by the First Nations, the selling of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), such as food products and floral greens, are becoming an increasingly valued market, and holders of small forest tenures have the potential for leading this sector . Therefore, I would recommend that the First Nation groups should engage in the NTFP market which would increase job opportunities and provide economic independence. Small forest tenure holders also have diverse community linkages which can be utilized to develop a network of small scale markets such as managing high quality log sorting and grading, or harvesting NTFPs to optimize recreation within the community . Small forest tenures in British Columbia have the advantage on corporations in the changing forestry industry, however, innovation is the key to optimizing commercial benefits from emerging opportunities . Therefore, Squamish and Lil’wat Nation could take advantage of this upcoming market by using their traditional knowledge of the forest to benefit their peoples. For the RMOW, I recommend that the local government increases public awareness of the community forest by advertising the management techniques and values in Whistler resort. By increasing public awareness of the community forest, the provincial government will be pressured to incorporate more First Nation groups into the forestry industry across British Columbia. Many communities across B.C. have plans of obtaining a Community Forest Agreement, however, they are still pending approval. Since Whistler is known as the best winter resort in Canada, and one of the largest tourist attractions in B.C., increasing public support for community forests across the province will increase local economic development, reduce biodiversity loss, and diversify the forestry industry.
(Ambus et al, 2007. pg 88-100). 
(British Columbia Community Forest Association, n.d). 
(Cheakamus Community forest, 2009). 
(Ecosystem Based Management Plan, 2013). 
(Lil’wat Nation, n.d). 
(McCarthy J, 2006). 
(Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, 2016). 
(Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, 2011). 
(Resort Municipality of Whistler, 2009). 
(Squamish Nation, n.d.). 
--EmilyKemps (talk) 18:04, 18 October 2017 (PDT)--EmilyKemps (talk) 18:04, 18 October 2017 (PDT)
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