Carrie Saxifrage: Reflections from the outgoing Community Forest President 

Editor’s Note: Carrie Saxifrage was President of the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative from April 2019 – May, 2023.

This is Carrie Saxifrage with some reflections on the community forest.

Thanks so much to those who attended the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative (CCFC) AGM and to all the forest folk who keep this place deep green.

Especially thank you to the CCFC board going forward: Mark Brataan, Maureen Williams, Kate Maddigan, Sadhu Johnston, David Shipway, Aaron Ellingsen and Nick Gagnon. These community members have both dedication and very useful knowledge. It’s an amazing board! We are fortunate.

Lots of appreciation was given and fully received at the AGM. It’s a time of fruition for some long-term dreams. Suzanne Simard herself presented research from past community forest harvests and Rami Rothkop summarized a plan to capture more of the economic opportunities of value added manufacturing. These are long term dreams that are moving forward in real ways.

I want to share a few thoughts from my outgoing president’s report, personal opinions based on my experience and not reflective of the CCFC board’s position on anything.

I hope we improve our skills all around in how we approach community forest decisions and conflicts. The community forest needs the community. It is a huge part of the island land base under local control. In my view, the best-case scenario for the forest will include consistent engagement, respect and ecological knowledge.

About consistent engagement, we can show up when the long-term plans are being made, not just when we realize that equipment will soon arrive in our part of the forest. Ample notice by the CFGP is helpful so we aren’t responding under pressure. So is an atmosphere that warmly encourages the community to give input on the one hand and the understanding that input might not be acted on because there are constraints on the other. It would be great for everyone to feel heard and encouraged to show up because there’s so much ecological knowledge and commitment in our community. Many of us live here because of the forests. They are our delight and responsibility.

Here’s an important meeting to go to: The five-year plan process begins May 11, 6:30 pm at the Klahoose Multipurpose Hall.

The map:

The website:

About respect, for those of us serving on boards and their employees, respectful conduct is a duty. For the rest of us, it makes us more credible. Racism, sexism, we’ve seen it. It’s not a matter of walking on eggshells. It’s a matter of aiming to actively support others who aren’t traditional holders of power. It is a time of growing awareness and its okay to make mistakes, apologize, learn more and make known our intention to do better.

About respect, it’s helpful to understand the constraints on the CFGP. For example, it can’t not log. It needs to be financially viable and meet the partners’ expectations. The community forest has a land base with a lot of neighbourhood interface. The Province gives community tenure in places with the least social licence for a reason. Our success so far is a hard won. Thank you, Mark Lombard and the CFGP board.

Also about respect, the Klahoose First Nation made a generous decision when it decided to share community forest tenure in equal partnership with the settler community and in the spirit of “we are one island.” There are important historical injustices still strongly in play. (21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph is a really important read). I don’t think we have to silence ourselves to be good and respectful allies. But we should make a real effort to understand what our partner expects and form new opinions based on what we learn. It was great to work with the Klahoose reps during my time on the CFGP board. Thank you, Klahoose First Nation. Emote.

About respect, it is helpful when newcomers understand that the island they chose is so beautiful because of very long efforts by protective residents who love its ecosystems. You will help if you hire local people, help with housing so long-time residents can stay here, use community forest wood, buy local products, bring you gifts to needed solutions, join a board, and understand that the best outcomes take time and effort here. If Cortes Island is to remain a strong, year-round, forest-loving community, we need you to join the efforts.

The list attached to my president’s report on the tide line species at risk is from 2011, but I suspect the species aren’t doing any better.  The list attached here is old but I suspect the species aren’t doing any better. In particular, our community should know about and protect any nesting areas used by Great Blue Herons, Goshawks, Nighthawks or the Sooty (Blue) Grouse. 

The free Merlin App from Columbia University has sound ID for birds. If you are on a walk and hear the strange, thrilling cry of a hawk, use the sound ID to record the location and identify the species. Then you have evidence.

Another contribution to ecological knowledge is looking at the big picture of what the community forest is doing. Please look at the attached document on forest modeling. (Pres Report Notes). While it is an oversimplification of an oversimplification based on a lot of assumptions, it does show a best-data approach to analyzing what the CFGP’s current harvest rates would look like over the long term. Spoiler: the forests gets more deep green, older, which could mean expanding habitat for other species as well as a host of other things too important to go into as a side point. I don’t know of any other community forest that has such a sustainable harvest or the modeling to show it. When put our heads up and see how we are doing relative to the rest of the world, wow. Just, wow. I hope CCFC/CFGP keep up the modeling.

Another contribution to ecological knowledge is just getting out there if you like to bush walk. Most of the maps on the CFGP website can be downloaded onto the Avenza App, which is free. You need never get lost again. I use the Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory Map a lot. (

There is treasure trove at the bottom of this page: .

The new 5 year plan map will be very useful as well.

Due to constraints, there aren’t great answers about how to log the community forest. It’s not an established path, we are making it as we go. We can try to go forward as one island, with increasing knowledge and respect.

If you have read this far, thank you so much.

Now, it’s my turn to go quiet. : )

Links of interest:

Top photo credit: L to R – Andy Ellingsen, Bruce Ellingsen, Mark Lombard, Carrie Saxifrage, Sonya Friesen.