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Social Land Ownership


Who Owns Scotland?
Land Reform
Land Reform Guidance
Commonweal Papers
Networks of Agents
Training of Trainers

Social Involvement in Forestry

Eight Cases Studies from British Columbia and Quebec

Roland Stiven August 2000

Roland Stiven can be contacted at:


bulletBackground to Forestry in British Columbia
bulletSmall Business Forest Enterprise Programme
bulletThe Woodlot License Program
bulletWoodlot Associations and the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations
bulletThe BC Community Forest License Pilot Programme
bulletBritish Columbia Case Studies
bulletVancouver Island Woodlot Associations
bulletComox Valley Community Forest
bulletRevelstoke Community Forest Corporation
bulletKaslo Community Forest
bulletHarrop Procter Community Forest
bulletBella Coola
bulletQuebec Case Studies
bulletThe Forest Venture Groups
bulletRegroupement des Sociétés d’Aménagement Forestier du Québec (RESAM)
bulletSt Laurent Model Forest
bulletAcknowledgements and Contacts


In the summer of 2000 I received a Millennium Award from the Millennium Forest for Scotland Trust to visit forestry projects in British Columbia and Quebec in Canada. Inspiration for the trip came from attending an IUFRO conference on rural development forestry held in Aberdeen in 1999. There I had met with a number of Canadian foresters promoting projects and organisations tackling community involvement in forestry and the organisation of private forest owners. Both of these issues are current in Scotland, being proposed for further development within the Scottish Forestry Strategy (

In both BC and Quebec, forestry has been one of the major resources for economic development. It remains so today especially in the huge areas of both provinces, which are rural. At present, the majority of the forest area is leased to large companies practicing industrial forestry, harvesting primary forest to feed large scale processing industries. My study concentrated on the non-industrial end of the spectrum; the small private forest owners and the growing number of community enterprises keen to develop multiple benefit forestry for sustained local development.

With the Millennium Award I visited community forestry projects in British Columbia and woodlot organisations in both BC and Quebec. The majority of my time was spent in BC where attention to such issues is relatively recent. Throughout the province there are groups of people struggling to turn forestry around to focus on local development. In Quebec the private forest owner organisations are much better established and the two Quebec case studies provide an interesting comparison.

This report provides some background to forestry in both areas and refers to brief case studies of the projects visited. As part of the Award I will be presenting elements of the study to interested organisations in Scotland. There are, of course, significant differences between Scottish and Canadian forestry, mainly related to the differences in scale. However the same drivers for change affect both: demands for diversification of the rural economy, environmental pressure, the challenge of certification and the influence of global markets. I hope that the study provides some ideas and information for the growing number of people in Scotland interested in the social aspects of forestry development in Scotland. Almost all of the organisations I visited are putting a great deal of effort into publicising their work on the internet and wherever appropriate I have given website addresses for those interested to follow up.

Background to Forestry in British Columbia

Forestry is big business in BC accounting for 7.5% of the GDP and is under the legislative control of the BC provincial government. Forests, logging trucks and forest industries are ever present throughout the province. Forestry courses are taught in high school, the newspapers discuss forestry and forest policy regularly, the Universities have forestry departments and many people in rural areas have worked in forestry.

While 94% of the forestland in BC is in public ownership, 86% of that is leased by 20 corporations who practice high volume, large scale industrial extraction. Under the BC Forest Tenure System, most licenses are for 15 -25 years, renewable every five years to allow for new conditions or standards to be introduced. In 1995 the BC Forest Practices Code set basic standards for management and required that all harvested areas are regenerated to a ‘free to grow’ stage .

The licenses only provide rights to the trees themselves and the Ministry of Forests sets the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) from each area. All licensees pay stumpage ($/m3) based on the harvest and an annual rent based on the AAC. Many licenses require that the company undertake primary processing of the wood. Around 85 % of the AAC are allocated to corporations that own sawmills or pulpmills. Licenses can be transferred or assigned with ministerial permission. However on transfer, 5% of the AAC is retained by the Crown to be reapportioned.

From the Second World War until the 1970s, the forest industry developed modern harvesting and primary-processing industries based in logging and mill towns throughout BC. It is estimated that over two thirds of the BC population still live in communities that have a moderate or heavy reliance on forestry; 89 communities are heavily dependent. However, as locally accessible timber resources are exploited, labour costs increase and timber prices fluctuate, the stability of forestry dependent communities becomes increasingly vulnerable. To maintain a growing forest economy the industry expects more economies of scale, more trees, more centralisation of processing and greater efficiency and productivity.

While the vertical integration of companies ensures supplies of timber to the big mills, it also keeps other people, who may be interested in other forms of value adding, out of the resource. Over 90% of BC forest product export are shipped as lumber, pulp, newsprint and paper.

As the scale of the forestry companies increases so the ability of local rural communities to influence their environment, their economy and their resources has decreased.

In the last couple of decades there has been growing internal and international criticism of the large scale, high volume ‘fibre’ production approach of BC forestry. Most criticism has been on environmental grounds highlighting the impacts on water and wildlife and questioning the capacity of the forest ecosystem to withstand high levels of harvest. In the 1990s, with the focus on wider sustainability and multiple resource use, the impacts of industrial forestry on other forest resources and on the stability of forestry dependent rural communities have also started to be questioned. Research by the Community Economic Development Centre at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver is looking at the role of forestry in the stability of rural communities and suggests that current policies are putting the industry’s concerns above those of the communities upon which it relies

In 1994, with a view to creating productive secondary forests and diversifying the industry, the government directed a proportion of stumpage fees into Forest Renewal BC (FRBC). This is a corporation with a legislated remit to invest in the development and revitalisation of the BC forest economy. It provides funding for silviculture and management, environmental restoration (mostly watershed improvements) and for expanding the value-adding sector. For the most part it provides partnership funding, working with other private and public sector organizations. FRBC is also currently providing funds to assist forest communities and workers adjust to changes in the forest economy through retraining, business development and job creation. A total of $1.5 billion will be allocated over the next five years.

While the industry giants are slow to change, the government is taking limited steps to encourage smaller scale forestry. In 1979 the Woodlot Licence was introduced, aimed at small scale, family-focused operations. A Small Business Forest Enterprise Programme was also initiated to give small business loggers and small processing plants access to timber resources. In 1999, the government agreed to pilot a new type of tenure - a Community Forest Pilot Agreement, whereby communities apply for rights to manage Crown forest land for multiple benefits to that community. Earlier this year (2000) 7 pilot community licenses were awarded.

The land area or timber volume for these small-scale programmes is often created when larger licenses are transferred between companies, using the 5% retention. However demand exceeds supply making bids for such programmes very competitive. As background to the case studies, these three programmes are briefly reviewed.

Small Business Forest Enterprise Programme

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The programme started in 1978 and supports about 1900 small logging businesses and 400 wood product processors by making available about 13% of BC’s annual allowable cut. Companies put in tenders for timber sale licenses and bids are judged on the money value and, in some cases, on the proposals for other objectives such as job creation, value adding and innovative practice or product development. In most cases the Ministry of Forests provides a site ready to log and will be responsible for site regeneration subsequently. In longer-term agreements (up to 10 years), the company may have to plan the logging, build access roads and be responsible for establishing new forest.

The programme supports a number of innovative projects including a log sorting yard to supply higher value markets, horse logging in sensitive sites and small scale salvage or harvesting systems. There is limited volume of timber available for the small business programme and the other small-scale programmes (woodlots, community forests etc.) detract from SBFEP land. Because of the centralisation of investment, small business loggers often find it easier to sell to the major mills rather than support local mills and, because there is no requirement that the small business is locally resident, the returns to the local economy can be minimal. I visited Bella Coola, mid-way up the coast of mainland BC, (see case study) which exemplifies many of the problems associated with trying to regenerate a local forest small business forestry sector.

The Woodlot License Program

Six percent of BC’s forestland is classified as private non-industrial forest, and currently more than 20,000 landowners have private holdings in excess of 20 hectares. While they contribute 10% of the province’s timber, many areas are unmanaged. The Woodlot License Program offers landowners additional areas of Crown land to encourage them to manage their own land more efficiently. The programme is open to any Canadian individual, aboriginal band, or Canadian controlled corporation that does not control a sawmill or processing facility. Woodlots are transferable, usually within families.

The maximum area of Crown land allotted per license is 600ha (400ha on the coast) on a rolling contract of 15 years, replaced every 5 years. The size of woodlots is not designed to provide the licensee’s sole source of income but rather to be of a scale that is efficient to manage. The stumpage rate for woodlots is set so that, if efficiently run, the woodlot is profitable.

In accepting a woodlot license to manage Crown land, licensees agree to manage their private holding on a sustained yield basis and to adopt the BC Forest Practice Code.

There are currently over 800 woodlot licenses in BC covering over 0.5million hectares of Crown and private land. More than 50% are farmers or ranchers. 300 woodlots have been created over the past four or five years but there is a demand for many more. A potential woodlot area can be identified by the Forest Service or proposed by an individual. Either way, competitive process awards the license and bids are scored on the basis of various criteria, including the applicant’s education and experience, the area of private land included and details of the proposed management. The woodlot licensee is required to pay the up front costs of planning, inventory, roading, harvesting and marketing and also to ensure regeneration of felled areas to a free-growing stage.

Because in the past private land tended to be allocated around settlements or farmland, the woodlot resource often covers forest, which is close to communities. They therefore are influenced by ‘urban’ (usually small town) pressures for outdoor recreation, landscape conservation and watershed management. The growing expectations for multiple objective management demands a higher level of management planning than most small-scale owners have been used to undertaking. Some woodlot licensees however are well-qualified professionals with broad interests and can be key players in taking forward innovative management and co-operative projects. While I was in BC the first two areas of forest were certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Woodlot licensees managed both.

The woodlot programme is run from the Ministry of Forests in Victoria which produces a quarterly newsletter ‘Woodlot License Link’ providing updates on policy and regulations as well as information on extension programmes.

Woodlot Associations and the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations

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In the 1980s, with government encouragement, a number of Woodlot Associations were established to promote co-operation between woodlot licensees and to help channel extension and government support. The expansion of the woodlot programme in the latter part of the 1990s together with the opportunity to access Forest Renewal BC funding, reinvigorated their efforts in marketing, extension and management.

Some Associations are certainly more active than others. Relying largely on voluntary effort by members and often covering considerable areas and scattered communities, organisation usually falls to a handful of committed members. I visited two woodlot associations on Vancouver Island and also the umbrella body The Federation of BC Woodlot Associations in Williams Lake, central BC.

The Federation of BC Woodlot Associations (FBCWA) was founded in 1988 and currently represents 27 Woodlot Associations with over 800 individual licensees. It is a non-profit society funded primarily by contributions from each woodlot association ($35/ licensee) and from other direct, associate and supporting members. Until recently, it was run on a voluntary basis but this year employed a part time co-ordinator. The Federation lobbies government on behalf of the woodlot licensees using membership contributions. Key issues include the desire for continued expansion of the Woodlot Program; the negotiation of appropriate level of stumpage for woodlot licenses and changes to the taxation system as it applies to privately owned woodland. The Federation also administers provincial funding for continued association building and distributes FRBC funding for silvicultural operations and extension programmes managed by the woodlot associations.

The Woodlot Product Development Council (WPDC) is now funding a large proportion of the work plan of the Federation. This is a distinct but closely associated organisation set up in 1998 by the Federation with support from the Government. The WPDC collects and spends a fund raised by a 25c/m3 levy on the AAC of all Woodlot licensees.

The WPDC has a Board of Directors comprised of six woodlot licensees, a representative of the processing industries and a government representative. There is also one non-voting government liaison position. A paid co-ordinator provides support to a volunteer executive. The focus of the annual work plan and budget is informed by an annual questionnaire to woodlot licensees but the levy funds cannot be used for lobbying government.

The Federation is a member of a wider Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners through which Canada-wide policies of the Federal Government can be influenced. Certification and federal wildlife conservation legislation are current subjects for influence.

The BC Community Forest License Pilot Programme

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The benefits of having more community control over local forest resources have long been unsuccessfully advocated in BC as a means to more effective multi-purpose and socially sensitive management. A few communities had already been allocated standard volume-based forest licenses including Revelstoke in 1993 and Kaslo in 1997 (see case studies), but there has been increasing demand for more appropriate, area specific control.

In 1998 the provincial government finally passed legislation to pilot community forest tenure. Invitations were made to municipalities, regional districts, First Nations (Native American) bands, corporations, and other local organisations to submit competitive proposals for a minimum of three pilot community forest agreements. These would provide a more flexible form of tenure with a view to promoting sustainable community development objectives, multiple resource management, environmental stewardship and encouraging stakeholder co-operation.

The new tenure agreement differs from existing tenures in a couple of important ways. Firstly it allows the licensee wider control over the forest resource. Rather than being limited to timber rights, the new agreements allow management of all botanical production (e.g. including fungi, fruits, herbs, flowers etc.). They also allow the development of other forest uses such as recreation, education and cultural heritage.

The pilot agreement is also more flexible on the amount and timing of timber harvests, which can be altered to suit the community objectives, rather than simply contributing pro-rata to regional timber targets. This gives some scope for more complex management incorporating ecosystem approaches.

In setting up the pilot programme, the government was looking for examples covering a range of communities, organisational structures and management proposals. Fairly detailed proposals were required demonstrating broad community representation and accountability, long term democratic management, business competence and financial viability.

The initial call for proposals brought in 87 formal expressions of interest and there were 27 applications. In the end 7 proposals were accepted, two from corporations, one from a municipality, 3 from registered societies and one from a First Nations band. Of the projects selected, some concentrate on small-scale harvesting and environmental certification for woodland products, one on training and developing educational resources and one on more traditional value-adding to timber products. I visited two of these pilot projects; one in Comox on Vancouver Island and the second at Harrop-Procter in the Kootenays in south-east BC (see case studies).

British Columbia Case Studies

The Vancouver Island Woodlot Associations

There are two-woodlot association on Vancouver Island; North and South Island Woodlot Associations. Both have been in existence since the late 1980s and until recently, both have been run primarily as a mechanism for providing extension services (technical support) to small private forest owners and woodlot licensees. Although Vancouver Island has been logged for over a century, it is only recently that attention has turned from extractive logging towards establishing smaller, managed multi-objective secondary forest. The introduction of the BC Forest Practice Code involves management planning and silvicultural operations (planting, thinning and pruning) which are relatively new to forest owners and woodlot licensees and compared to Scotland, the level of experience in such matters is minimal.

The North Island Woodlot Association (NIWA) has been the more active in recent years, growing in membership and looking to develop collaborative opportunities in marketing and management and extension provision. The South Island Woodlot Association (SIWA) has been less dynamic and is only now starting to pick up on new opportunities for association building and extension possible through the FRBC funding. I visited representatives of both and attended an SIWA field day visiting a number of properties.

South Island Woodlot Association

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The South Island Woodlot Association is a registered society with voluntary office bearers (President, Secretary and Treasurer). It covers an area of Vancouver Island from Buckley Bay to Victoria - areas within easy reach of the population centres in Victoria and Nanaimo. It has about twenty members including both woodlot licensees and private landowners. The majority own relatively small areas of secondary softwood forest (Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock), with the largest having an Annual Allowable Cut of about 300m3/year, The hardwood component of maple, alder and the localised ‘Garry oak’ is minor and is only now starting to be considered a potential resource.

SIWA has some influential members including the chairperson of the Private Forest Landowners Association and a couple of Ministry of Forests staff members. Until 1999 the post of President was held by the forester of the local Malspina University College. The college owns a woodlot, which includes demonstration areas used by the college and the Association.

The Association holds field trips, hosts guest speakers and aims to share knowledge and information on small-scale forestry. For the most part, the association has concentrated on extension of practical forestry silviculture and discussing the planning and reporting aspects of regulations. Shared concerns include the impact of government regulations and land taxation on small scale forestry and problems related to recreation pressure and vandalism at the urban/rural interface. The Association is also keen to press the provincial government to make more woodlot licenses available.

The challenge for the Association is to extend membership, become more cohesive and active and to access more land under woodlot licenses. To date, despite the fairly influential membership, the Association has struggled to maintain effective communication and co-ordination - perhaps because some members had other commitments and routes for influence. A new president was appointed in 1999 and he is keen to re-invigorate the association. A website has been created which has already attracted new members and market interest for hardwoods.

North Island Woodlot Association

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The North Island Woodlot Association was established as a not for profit society in 1987 to promote small-scale forestry and support private woodland and woodlot license holders through education, demonstration and extension. Although like most woodlot associations it relies entirely on voluntary effort it has been an active association and a forerunner in BC. A number of members have been committed to promoting small-scale forestry delivering what they call ‘the tangible community based and personal alternative between ‘traditional’ large-scale industrial forestry and total preservation’.

The NIWA is centred on Courtenay and the Comox Valley. Through recent association building efforts supported by FBCWA funding, the Association can boast a membership of 402 individuals from 95 families, which includes a number of forestry professionals and consultants with expertise in the full range of forestry and related skills. Membership is open to anyone. Most hold private land or woodlot licenses but there are members without land holdings who support the work. The Association has a five member Board of Directors who are voted in by members at general meetings.

The NIWA has focused on

bulletproviding training and extension in practical forestry and silviculture,
bulletresearch including surveys of woodland owner’s resources and extension needs
bulletbusiness planning and marketing including a number of conferences and meetings relating to wood processing, and local value adding
bulletdeveloping and accessing appropriate equipment and
bulletconsolidating the land base and tenure of small-scale forestry.

Alongside field trips to members’ woodlots and local forestry businesses, the Association has helped host an annual conference designed to link small-scale wood producers with value adding secondary manufacturers. It has also organised workshops and study groups on various subjects and initiated an information resource of books and videos in the regional library with funding from the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations. The NIWA produces an informative quarterly newsletter and recently created a website.

In 1996 the Association established a company, the North Island Woodlot Corporation (NIWC) with a view to developing collaborative marketing opportunities and community based forestry enterprises. The Government’s Community Forest Pilot Programme was seen as a key opportunity for developing these ideas and the NIWC submitted a successful proposal for a Community Forest License in 1999 (see Comox Valley Community Forest case study).

The Community Forests

The following case studies include two community forests based on traditional forest licenses (Revelstoke and Kaslo) and two of the new pilot community forest agreements (Comox Valley Community Forest and Harrop-Procter Community Forest.

Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation

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Revelstoke is a small ‘city’ of about 9000 people situated on the Trans-Canada highway in southeastern British Columbia. Revelstoke is home to Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks and is successfully promoting itself as a wilderness and outdoor recreation tourist centre. Forestry and tourism together account for half of the economic activity in Revelstoke.

In 1992, a private company proposed selling a substantial tree farm licence in the area to an out of town company with no local processing interests. Revelstoke has a long established forest industry workforce and at a public meeting around 500 people opposed the proposed sale. Faced with such local opposition, the Ministry of Forests agreed to oppose the transfer on economic and social grounds for the first time.

The City saw this as an opportunity to get control of local resources and invested $200,000 in the preparation of an alternative business proposal. Acting quickly, together with three local industry partners, the City proposed the establishment of a city-managed corporation working on half of the license area. Just four months after the initial meeting, the license area was split and the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation (RCFC) was established with 120,000ha of land and an annual allowable cut of 100,000m3 over 21,000 ha of operational forest.

The Mission Statement reads as follows

The Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation will manage and operate its Tree Farm License in a manner that will enhance the forest resource while respecting the principles of integrated use, environmental stewardship and public consultation; providing the following community benefits on a sustainable basis:

bulletrevenue to sustain the Corporation and support the community
bulletlocal control of resources
bulletlocal processing
bulletlocal employment
bulletforestry training and education
bulletoutdoor recreational activities
bulleta lasting relationship with the land that comprise TFL 56

The licence held only gives the RCFC rights to the timber resource, limiting direct involvement in management for other uses. However, the forest management aims to provide opportunities for multiple benefits in collaboration with other partners as appropriate. The license is governed by the same regulations as any other privately held license except that, rather than having to own processing capacity, the government required that a proportion of their harvest was sold competitively on the open market. The other half is sold at cost price to the local industry partners.

The RCFC took the innovative step of establishing a log-sorting yard. Rather than sell the harvest in large mixed lots, the log yard sorts into smaller lots of specific types and sizes. This was done primarily to get higher prices for high value timber and poles, and also to encourage access by local specialist wood processors. Many in the industry presumed that sorting would cost more in handling than would be realised by the higher prices fetched. In fact, the log yard has proved very successful and sales are made both locally and across Canada. The lots are advertised on the Internet. The log yard model is being investigated by a number of other communities (including Comox Valley) in an effort to increase returns and promote small scale value adding.

Revelstoke’s community forest has been managed effectively and successfully for seven years despite a downturn in the industry as a whole. It is proving profitable and repaying its financial investment by the City. Day to day management is by a team of five reporting to a Board including local Councilors and three members of the public. The Corporation liaises with a number of interest groups in developing management plans. In general there is little direct public participation in reviewing plans despite continuing deliberate efforts to encourage input. For the most part, if things seem to be going well, local people are happy to leave it to the management. Local employment issues are still paramount and the RCFC plays a key role in providing opportunities for local contract employment and training. The Corporation is committed to undertaking environmentally sensitive forestry and is now considering certification by the Forest Stewardship Council as a means of demonstrating sustainable management and capturing more specific high value markets.

The RCFC was established well before the current round of community forest license pilots and has been inspirational and a source of reference for many of these. It is not however the type of ‘bottom-up’ community forests to which many of the new projects aspire. It is essentially a local government managed forest with pragmatic objectives and a necessary interest in the local economy. It has a very well prepared website providing further detail on the history, corporate structure and management of the Community Forest.

The Kaslo and District Community Forest

In 1997 the town of Kaslo was awarded a (Community) Forest License with an Allowable Annual Cut of 10,000m3. Jennifer Gunter (see contacts) has written up the story of the Kaslo Community Forest as part of her dissertation for Simon Fraser University which uses the case study to develop ideas about community capacity for forest management. This brief resumé is largely taken from an interview with her and from her dissertation.

Kaslo is a small town of about 1000 people on the north shore of Kootenay Lake in the Columbia Mountains of southeast BC. It was founded in the 1890s as a centre for silver mining but, as the mining boom passed, became increasingly dependent on forestry. During the 1980s the forest economy and the population declined considerably and since then the economy has diversified with tourism becoming a mainstay. 22% of the population still work in forestry or related industries.

The desire for local control of the surrounding forest started back in the 1980s when local residents watched out of town contractors log the area and truck the logs out of the valley. At that time local groups tried to obtain timber rights but were knocked back by the provincial government. It was not until a Timber Supply Review in 1995 identified a significant supply of unallocated timber in the district that the community interest in local control was accepted as valid. The local response to early proposals for developing a community forest showed overwhelming support. However, developing the proposal took over a year of intense negotiation and local meetings undertaken by a volunteer Planning Committee. A feasibility study was undertaken using FRBC funding and a non-profit society was created.

The standard Forest License granted to the society had one important amendment, which removed the usual requirement that the licensee link their allocated cut to a specific mill. The license was still volume-based so did not impart any management rights to the society other than for the timber.

In preparing the application the Planning Committee had proposed linking up with a contracting company who would provide initial funding and manage the forest for the first five years. The appointed board however felt that this diminished the legitimacy of the community forest and looked for other sources of start-up capital. They eventually secured a loan from a federal government community lending agency and agreed a second loan from a local company in exchange for first right of refusal on 50% of the timber harvest.

The Kaslo Community Forest Society has a nine-member board, which includes two local government appointees. The remainder of the board was selected from community applicants using criteria aimed at getting a balance of interests and perspectives rather than sectoral representation. This board model was devised to balance community values with public accountability and it was hoped that it would reduce the adversarial dynamic that tends to result from the sectoral model.

The board maintains a number of committees covering finance, education, recreation, public relations and operations on which members of the public are invited to sit.

While the legal terms of the Forest License and the Societies Act are the binding conditions, which limit the policies of the KCFS, the board recognised that these were insufficient in themselves to constitute community forest policy. They have therefore actively developed policies for the KCFS, which embody and assert principles of local sustainability and multiple resource use. Jennifer Gunter (see contacts), in her dissertation, dissects the legal and de facto (actual assumed) management rights of the KCFS and analysis their implications for developing management responsibilities and incentives. It is a useful type of analysis, which may be of interest to others developing community forests.

The Community Forest has been operational since its inception undertaking inventories, biodiversity assessments, water quality monitoring, recreation trail construction (by volunteers) worker training (using FRBC funding) and logging. It employs a Forest Supervisor and Field Assistant and uses contractors for road building, logging and hauling. The KCFS is keen to ensure that sufficient information is collected to inform decisions on harvesting plans in sensitive areas for wildlife or landscape or in watersheds. 28% of the supply area covers domestic water supply watershed but this contains 40% of the harvestable volume. To date cutting has avoided highly sensitive areas but at some stage they will have to tackle areas which impact more directly on the community.

The limitations of what is essentially a standard Forest License are evident. The KCFS are unanimous that the tenure should be longer term (currently it is a 15 year non-replaceable license) and should be specific to an area, rather than a volume within a wider timber-supply area. The AAC is also set at standard levels, which leaves little room for more environmentally sensitive management. The current level of 10,000m3 does however give the KCFS major licensee status and a voice in decisions affecting the wider Timber Supply Area.

It is presumed that at some stage the KCFS will be able to have the terms of their license reviewed to be more in line with the new pilot community forest licenses that have been issued.

There are continuing challenges for the KCFS. Views and ideals for forest management vary within the community but the KCFS expect that, through extensive consultation and demonstration, a pragmatic consensus and a degree of trust in KCFS management can be attained. An education programme, including a school curriculum, is being devised to increase the level of knowledge and understanding of the community about the forest.

The structure and composition of the organisation will need to continue to adapt as the organisation evolves and the degree of voluntary board effort will need to be reduced. Recruiting experienced board members may be problematic in a small town if there is not to be a conflict of interest between contracted parties and the board. A clear tension also exists between the desire to function efficiently in meeting financial obligations (i.e. start up loans) through timber harvesting, while maintaining an acceptable balance of non-timber values. There is also a need to prioritise how revenues should be invested e.g., in developing value-added business.

The Comox Valley Community Forest

The North Island Woodlot Corporation a business arm of the North Island Woodlot Association (see NIWA case study) was awarded a Community Forest license as one of the seven projects in the pilot programme. The main characteristics of their proposal were a mix of public and private land and emphasis on multiple benefits, value adding and stewardship. Members of the NIWA developed the detailed proposal entirely through voluntary effort.

The Comox Valley, situated halfway up Vancouver Island on the east coast, has a population of over 71,000. The valley has a long tradition of forest industries once boasting the biggest logging operation in the British Empire. The economy has started to diversify as a retirement town with a growing tourism and service industry and a Canadian Forces Base. About 1400 people are still employed in the forest industry and there is a large sawmill and a number of smaller processing facilities. Most timber still leaves the valley as unprocessed logs.

When the invitation to submit proposals for Community Forest Pilot Agreement was made, two local residents groups were considering proposals to manage their surrounding Crown land to maintain water supply, recreation and quality of life benefits and to prevent threatened clearcutting. The NIWA meanwhile was primarily interested in bringing a larger area of forest into sustainable small-scale management so strengthening the forestry economy and contributing to collaborative log sorting, marketing and value adding initiatives. The NIWA undertook a considerable public notification and awareness-raising exercise of their initial proposals and, through stakeholders’ meeting, brought together the various groups into one umbrella bid. Alongside three areas of Crown land totaling 715ha, the proposal also attracted participation agreements from 22 private and non-industrial forest landowners with over 3,300ha of land.

The goals of the Community Forest include:

bulletThe sustainable development of the Comox Valley forests through balanced integration of the social, economic and environmental values
bulletCommunity control and the creation of a local forum to discuss and resolve management issues
bulletIdentification of the full range of forest values and provision for multi-purpose use
bulletProvision of a model for effective management of the interface between working forests and human settlements
bulletA labour intensive timber harvesting and silviculture industry
bulletDevelopment of a solid economic base which will allow future generations to make a living off the forestry resource
bulletEstablishment of local, small, labour intensive specialty mills and value-added wood industries

The proposal emphasizes ecosystem based planning, localised control, responsibility and stewardship, shared services and information, and the maintenance of access, biodiversity and non-timber forest products.

The Directors of the NIWC are appointed by the NIWA Board and will fix budgets and define operational objectives. These will be delegated to a Management Board comprised of single representatives from each community group and one or two members appointed by the NIWC. If, as proposed, the activities of the Community Forest expand into the private landholdings, a further board member may be added to represent them.

Public involvement beyond the groups involved will be through a broad-based non-voting Community Advisory Committee. Any group with an interest in the Community Forest will be invited to name representatives to the advisory committee.

The Community Forest has proposed a timber cut of 2000m3 which is at the low end of the range given for the area. This allows for ecological conservation and landscape considerations. In common with a number of small-scale forestry ventures in BC, they are also keen to develop botanical and non-timber forest products. The annual mushroom harvest, together with salal (a native shrub used for floral arrangements), is valued at $140,000, well beyond the value of a sustainable timber harvest. These are already being harvested to some extent by local people and it may prove difficult for the Community Forest to control or receive income from this source. They aim to recuperate 10% of this value by year six of the project.

The one major setback to the Community Forest is the response from the First Nations. In the mid 1990s, the First Nations in BC won legal support for their claim that there was no valid treaty transferring their land rights to the Crown. This essentially allows them to lay claim to large areas of British Columbia and there are ongoing legal and political negotiations to try to resolve the issue. The upshot is that, while they may be supportive of groups involved in improving stewardship and promoting local development, they cannot sensibly agree to new tenures being granted on land for which they are negotiating.

This may put a halt to the allocation of the actual Community Forest License. In the meantime however it is likely that many of the collaborative ventures and developments proposed will go ahead.

The Comox Valley Community Forest is undoubtedly an ambitious and groundbreaking proposal for BC. It relies on a community of professional, visionary and hard working people who are committed to the area and to a new type of forest management. It has a solid support base in the NIWA and the respect of the wider public and local economic community.

Harrop Procter Community Forest

The Harrop Procter Community Forest was awarded one of the seven Community Forest Pilot Agreements. The communities of Harrop and Procter are on the west arm of Kootenay Lake reached by a short ferry journey from outside the town of Nelson in South East BC. The resident population of 650 nearly doubles in the summer months with summer cottage owners drawn to the recreation opportunities at the lake and the island-like feel to the community.

The forest is particularly important for domestic water supply and the residents have been active in demanding full public participation in plans for logging of the area since 1976. They have effectively argued against various attempts to impose logging plans in, what was once described by the Ministry of Forests as, ‘ the largest area of good timber left in the Southern Interior of BC’. In 1984 they set up the Harrop Procter Community and Watershed Protection Committee and started to collect information and develop their own plans for appropriate forestry. Well ahead of their time they were looking for integrated management, biodiversity and watershed protection, value adding and local control. They also helped to set up a strategic level alliance developing plans for the wider area.

In 1992 the community put forward a bid to establish a Model Forest as part of the federal programme for model forests across Canada. This was eventually rejected.

In 1995 the watershed was left out of the West Arm Wilderness Area which was established around the community leaving Harrop-Procter still a priority for logging tenures.

In 1996 the Harrop-Procter Watershed Protection Society was established to develop a proposal for one of the earlier volume-based community forest licenses (such as Kaslo and Revelstoke were awarded). The mandate of the Society was to ‘act as a steward and increase employment for the Harrop-Procter watershed through ecologically based land use’. The 1996 bid was unsuccessful. In developing plans for a Community Forest members visited every household in the community to explain the proposal and elicit support. 60% of the residents are now members of the society, which has continued to develop plans, produce newsletters and hold public meetings to inform and involve the community. They were finally successful in being awarded a Community Forest License this year.

To manage the Community Forest the Society set up a Co-operative Association with a ten-member board comprised of Society and other community members. Membership of the Co-operative is open to all adult residents. A Management Committee will work with a contracted forest manager and administrative assistant.

Very detailed ecosystem-based forest management plans have been developed by Silva Forestry Foundation, who are a well known and long-established organisation that has been promoting ecologically based forestry for some time. They are also the only registered Forest Stewardship Council certifier in BC. The proposed cut is a small proportion of what would be the annual allowable cut under a traditional forest license and watershed protection; biodiversity conservation and local amenity remain clear objectives.

Business proposals for the forest include:

bulletSales of eco-certified timber and lumber to value-added manufacturers and to the public, by utilizing existing small local sawmills and direct log sales. Currently the BC demand for eco-certified timber is being filled by imports from California! The annual cut proposed is 2700m3, much less than would be normal under Standard Forest License tenure but still a significant supply. They hope also to establish craft-tree licenses allowing local craftspeople to select and harvest a small number of trees for specialised, high value use.
bulletCreation of a value-adding manufacturing plant, producing consumer goods and giftware designed by students and graduates of the Kootenay School of the Arts Wood Design Program, the BC Centre for Wood Products Design, and other local designers. These products will be marketed internationally.
bullet(a) Development of an agroforestry business, integrating wild-grown herbs and plants from the Harrop-Procter forest lands with commercially grown organic herbs from the farmlands in Harrop-Procter in order to provide bulk, dried herbs to local, national and U.S. markets.
bullet(b) Production of medicinal tinctures and balms made with herbs, fungi and plants harvested from the Harrop-Procter Community Forest and herbs grown in the local area. Residents have also expressed an interest in growing agricultural food products for this enterprise.
bulletEnvironmentally low impact tourism. This project includes the upgrading of forest trails and perhaps the construction of tree houses for hikers to stay in.

The Harrop Procter Community Forest is deliberately maintaining a simple, local, community-based approach to forestry while at the same time being technically proficient and innovative in its attempt to integrate land and other community resources in holistic management. It is proving itself a catalyst for wider social and economic development of the area attracting interest from local farmers producing organically certified products, an eco-builder who wants to set up a business using local timber, and an annual story telling festival.

Bella Coola and the Central Coast

400km west of Williams Lake a gravel road makes a 6000ft decent from the ranching country of the central Chilcotin plateau into the Bella Coola valley. The town of Bella Coola lies at the end of the valley and at the head of a long sea inlet. This is where Sir Alexander Mackenzie first sighted ocean after crossing Canada in 1793. The central coast area, which surrounds Bella Coola, covers 4.8 million ha of largely uninhabited hinterland. It has a population of less than 5000 people, half of whom are First Nations of the Nuxalk and Heitsuk bands.

Salmon canning and logging have been the primary industries for most of this century. The closure of a pulp mill in 1980 and the steady decline and ‘rationalisation’ of the coastal fishing industry have left very high unemployment and virtually 100% youth unemployment in the area.

The central coast forest is made up of typical West Coast species (Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock) with increasing oceanicity towards the coast. The mountains are steep sided and only 12% of the land base is considered available for timber harvesting. There have however been several major license holders active in the area and much of the accessible timber has already been logged - with sawlogs shipped out of the district to Vancouver for processing. One estimate suggests that, in the period 1983 -1994, timber worth over $4billion dollars to the Canadian economy has left the area.

Of the major license holders, only Interfor are still active and most of their work over the next few years will involve their silviculture obligations on cutover sites or heli-logging of individual high value trees. With the current downturn in the timber market the companies are turning towards more accessible and profitable areas.

Only 11% of Bella Coola residents now work in forest harvesting and much of this work is seasonal and insecure. There are still a number of small businesses in the area often ‘handlogging’ operations working small patches of quality stands on the many inlets in the coastline. However, with the major licensees controlling the bulk of the timber areas, there is a shortage of annual allowable cut to be apportioned under the small business programme. Only six sales were made last year and competition in tendering for the areas made them largely unprofitable. The number of companies registered with the small business programme in the area has dropped recently from 80 to 30.

There is one small sawmill in the Bella Coola Valley but otherwise little in the way of value adding. There is no kiln drying facility and this limits the development of finished products. Until recently, the small business logging community has made little attempt to co-operate in developing the industry locally. They have recently formed a marketing co-operative but the limited supply of timber available means that this has not had a chance to operate.

There are edible fungi in the central coast forest especially pine mushrooms and chanterelles and local people can make good money from fungi collecting for a few weeks each autumn. This remains an unregulated activity on Crown land.

Given the history of resource exploitation and lack of investment in local capacity, the Bella Coola Valley has been pushing for a community forest for over ten years. The pilot community forest licenses were considered a major opportunity and the regional district submitted a proposal.

The First Nations communities in Bella Coola and Bella Bella put forward their own proposals. Both are currently involved in treaty negotiations with the province over their rights to the land in question, and were therefore unable to support the regional district proposal, which anyway did not adequately address their priorities. The Nuxalk First Nations band are developing a forestry strategy with funding from the Federal Government’s First Nation Forestry Programme ( and are looking to the forest resource to help support wider initiatives to help reinforce their sense of community and share the value of their culture. Amongst other projects they have been trying to develop a joint venture with one of the forestry companies to initiate a community-based forestry program and get funding for a timber drier.

What became apparent during the preparation of the community forestry proposals was how little timber was actually still available for allocation over the next decade. The small business operators in the valley were also wary of any timber allocation to a community forest license, which may reduce the volume available through the SBFEP.

None of the bids was successful.

Despite this setback, the Regional District continues to recognise the value of local control over local resources. With minimal financial resources they cannot conceivably purchase the few areas of private land or the rights of the large license holders. Any future project will therefore require co-ordination and co-operation to make the best of what little resource is available.

They are developing a manufacturer database to match manufacturers’ wood needs to local suppliers. They are also developing a Wood Co-operative for value-adding entrepreneurs who wish to solidify and share infrastructure, education and training. Both are funded by FRBC. Other co-operative ventures by the existing small businesses would make sense and the MoF is trying to maintain and expand the area available under this programme. The district is currently considering developing a deep-sea port in connection with controversial gravel mining proposals in the area and this would provide much easier direct market outlets for finished timber products.

Other possibilities to develop the region are being considered. Bella Coola is very beautiful, with majestic snow capped mountains, clear glacial rivers, Tweedsmuir National Park and opportunities for ecotourism - wilderness hiking, fishing, and hunting, kayaking etc. However such things are in abundance in ‘beautiful British Columbia’ and Bella Coola is isolated and has no public transport access. A recent summertime ferry service stops in at Bella Coola en route up the Discovery Passage from Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert which will help provide seasonal service sector work. While forest operations may impact on tourism, they also provide access for recreation in what would otherwise be largely inaccessible wilderness. This suggests scope for collaborative planning between timber license holders and people who may wish to develop recreational services.

Environmental organisations such as Greenpeace and Forest Action Network ( ) have been campaigning for the development of the ‘Great Bear Rainforest’ in the mid coast region, demanding an end to clear cutting and protection of large areas. Past logging has had a major impact on the rivers and riparian areas and is widely held as a contributing factor in the decline of the salmon fishing industry up and down the coast. It is also being recognised that the salmon rivers are a key feature in the forest ecosystem; the annual spawning salmon providing a major nutrient input to the forest fauna, from grizzly bears to invertebrates. Local support for the Great Bear Rainforest is not particularly widespread although some groups within the First Nations community have backed the idea in support of their ongoing land negotiations.

While a large-scale park seems unlikely at present, it is fairly certain that future logging will have to meet increasingly tighter landscape and environmental standards. Logging practices will undoubtedly improve with the application of the BC Forest Practice Code. The Ministry of Forests is recommending a move away from large-scale clear cuts and the rehabilitation of degraded riparian areas. ‘Visual Quality Objectives’ are being set within an overall land use plan for the central coast.

Clearly Bella Coola is experiencing the downside of having been subject to external control and the exploitation and export of its forest capital. It also illustrates that with diverse interest and degraded resources it is not easy to develop shared goals and community initiatives.

Quebec Case Studies


Quebec is Canada’s largest province with a vast area extending north above the major population centres of Montreal, Hull and Quebec City. It has 60% forest cover and, as in British Columbia, a large part (90%) of the productive forest resource is public. For the most part this is leased to major industrial forestry companies on 25-year leases. Gradually the industrial interests are concentrating into a few big players and extending north, further into the boreal forest - ‘the forestry is moving north and the decision makers are moving south’. Environmental pressures are mounting however and a northern limit to expansion has been agreed. Recently a popular Quebec folk singer made a film exposing industrial forestry practices, which created a major public backlash against the industry. Tenure conditions are being revised but the emphasis is still on impact mitigation rather than on integrated resource management.

Quebec has a long history of European settlement dating back to the 1500s so private land is long established. The private forest resource covers about 6 million hectares about a third of which is managed. It is mostly broad-leaved and mixed woodland situated in the south of the province alongside much of the population and agriculture. There are about 120,000 private forest owners and of these 40,000 are registered as wood producers with access to government programmes.

In 1956 the government set up agricultural product marketing boards and timber was included, since much of the private forest was associated with farms. The marketing board is still in existence and continues to arrange private woodland supply quotas for processing industries and set local fibre prices.

Woodland owners are often farmers (32%) but there are a growing number of white and blue-collar workers owning forestland. Most holdings are of 60ha. Motivation for ownership is varied but few owners have timber as their main income. 13,000 owners are producing maple syrup and this sector is growing.

The Forest Venture Groups

In 1972 against a trend of rural exodus and increasing urbanisation, public pressure persuaded the government to develop forestry objectives aimed at supporting rural forest-dependent communities. In order to support private forestry efficiently, woodland owners were encouraged to form groups of 100 or more. These forest venture groups, as they came to be known, were the sole channel for access to provincial funding which, until 1989, provided 100% of management costs for private woodland.

There are now 44 forest venture groups with 22,000 members working in over 700 municipalities. They are providing management and technical services for grouped areas of forestland. Most are registered as companies with members as shareholders, a couple are co-operatives but, in general, the groups have non-profit making objectives. Individual owners do set priorities for their own land and can arrange an appropriate level of services from the group. Services are paid for through a stumpage fee on timber harvesting. The Bas-Saint-Laurent Model Forest (see case study) incorporates one such forest venture group, Le Groupement Forestier de l’Est du Lac Témiscouata, covering six municipalities and 700 private woodland owners.

Thirty out of the forty-four groups provide and market their services beyond their members, working in public, municipal or other private woodland. The groups are also developing market and processing opportunities and managing conservation and multiple resource use programmes in recreation, agroforestry (maple syrup, domestic stock and essential oils) and wildlife (e.g. deer stalking). The groups currently provide work for about 7000 people (including 2500 owners) and generate revenues totaling $121 million. The Forest Venture Groups need to continue to attract new members. The average age of owners is increasing and it is difficult to attract and retain young people in rural areas.

RESAM (Regroupement des Sociétés d’Aménagement Forestier du Québec)

RESAM provides an overall co-ordinating role for the 44 groups. It is funded by the groups and lobbies for their interests at a provincial level. Particular issues include changes to taxation mechanisms, which discourage forest investment and sensitive management. RESAM also provides services for the groups administering central funding, developing information support services, managing particular projects and helping them to adapt to their changing needs, evolving policy context and market opportunities.

In 1995, stimulated by the withdrawal of Federal funding for private forestry there was a major summit to review the role of private woodland within a sustainable development agenda. This resulted in the setting up of 17 regional partnership agencies to develop the private forest resource for multiple objectives. These partnerships consist of the Department of Forest, the local private forest venture groups, the forest (processing) industry and the municipalities. They have developed co-financing agreements aimed at reducing government funding from 100% to 60% requiring contributions from industry (20%) and the private owners themselves (20%). The municipalities are providing various facilitating measures, in particular, reviewing local regulations governing forests (amenity, access etc). The regional groups are developing locally appropriate objectives and mechanisms for protection, planning and adding value to the private forests. Maintaining forest-dependent communities in rural areas is a key objective.

The challenges for the private forestry sector continue. Translating environmentally and socially sustainable forestry policy into practice on the ground is a gradual process. The range of management and ownership objectives is broad and developing a forest management culture and industry beyond simply harvesting, will be important. There is a need for better inventory and planning, for extension and training of owners and for product and service diversification. The partnership concept is also quite new and the private owners need to learn to play politics in the regional groups. The role of RESAM as a co-ordinating body for the forest venture groups will also need to evolve as the regional groups take on more of the delivery of development Planning.

The Bas-Saint-Laurent Model Forest

This is one of a series of Model Forests set up by the federal government in 1992 as a contribution to taking forward the sustainable forests agenda of the Rio Earth Summit ( There are 11 model forests throughout Canada covering a range of circumstances and forest types. The first phase of the programme aimed to bring stakeholders together in partnership to develop strong relationships and shared sustainable goals. The second phase (1997-2002) is focusing on implementation of shared work plans, the development of innovative projects and ideas, and communicating the results of the work.

The Bas-St-Laurent Model Forest covers 113,100 hectares of private, mixed forest in eastern Quebec. It incorporates three distinct areas. One is the area controlled by a venture forest group and two form the basis of an innovative forest tenant project. The forests are near the town of Rimouski on the south side of the St Laurent River in eastern Quebec. The countryside around Rimouski is small arable and livestock farms and areas of mixed maple, balsam fir and yellow birch woodland. The rural population has a high rate of seasonal unemployment especially among the young.

The Model Forest incorporates three principle sponsors, the forest venture group, and the wood marketing board, a corporate forestry company and landowner and Laval University in Quebec City. They are managing a number of projects and an associated research agenda looking into the environmental, social and economic issues surrounding the work.

The forest tenant project is an exercise in rural regeneration based on forestry. Two areas of selectively logged (creamed) corporate-owned forest were divided into 27 areas of about 1000 ha and the tenancies advertised to local people. Three hundred and forty six people applied for the 27 places. Applicants were selected on a number of criteria including their forestry experience, entrepreneurship, and attitude towards innovation and interest in teamwork. The actual sites were allocated by consensus, managing to suit most tenants’ interests and objectives for involvement. Some parts of the area are managed in common by all tenants for conservation and watershed management objectives. The project has been running successfully for five years.

The tenants have agreed to work for 26 weeks each year on their land and give up their entitlement to unemployment benefit throughout the rest of the year (this cannot be legally binding but has been accepted). Income comes from timber sales (pulpwood arranged through the timber marketing board), subsidies for silvicultural work (from the regional private forest development agency and provincial government) and profits from hunting and fishing and by subcontracting work from other tenant farmers. They pay stumpage on a set level of harvest which pays for taxes and forest protection services, provides a return to the landowner, can be reinvested into other projects (conservation etc.) on the land, and contributes to a compensation fund.

The agreement to work 26 weeks of the year on their own land effectively rules out investment in new machinery to improve productivity. This was a deliberate clause by the model forest who wanted to demonstrate that forestry could be profitable without becoming so capital intensive that it excluded people. It is a controversial clause which some tenants, who are subcontracting other work, would rather was omitted. Most however are happy with the conditions imposed. Only a handful of tenants (5) have dropped out of the scheme (not all because they were unhappy with the project) and there is still high demand for places that come available.

The forestry tenancies are not subsidised beyond what is available to any other private owner and the Model Forest is keen to show that the tenancy model is transferable throughout lower Quebec. It has already been copied in other areas.

Acknowledgments and Contacts

I am most grateful to the Millennium Forest for Scotland Trust, The Millennium Commission and the Forestry Commission for sponsoring the award. Also to the following people who provided me with contacts, interviews and information in Canada

Name Organisation e-mail
Jack Smyth Canadian Forest Service
Augustin Lebeau Canadian Forest Service Quebec
Dave Haley Woodlot License Officer ,Ministry of Forests BC
Sen Wang Pacific Forestry Centre
Kelly Finck Community Forest Pilot Project BC
Dick Varney South Island Woodlot Association
Allen Hopwood North Island Woodlot Association
Brian McNaughton Federation of BC Woodlot Associations
Kelly Vodden Forest Communities Project, Simon Fraser University
Jennifer Gunter Kaslo Community Forest
John Cathro Kaslo Community Forest
Susan Mulkey Kaslo Community Forest
Nicola Swanney Koroluk Bella Coola SBFEP
Sam Moody Nuxalk First Nation
Bob Clarke Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation
Ramona Faust Harrop-Procter Community Forest
Richard Savard St Laurent Model Forest
Gerard Szaraz RESAM

Thanks to Alan Hampson (SNH) for mentoring the project, Ernest Law at MFST for managing the award and to Reforesting Scotland for lending me their slide pack. Also to the many relatives and friends in Canada for being such fine hosts and lending cars etc. Finally to Anna Kenny for support and forebearance, without whom.