Mark Lombard: Community Forest 5-Year Plan

The Cortes Community Forestry Co-operative held its annual AGM on May 7th at Mansons Hall. The Co-operative is an equal partner with Klahoose First Nation in the Cortes Forestry General Partnership, locally known as the “Community Forest.” Mark Lombard is the General Manager for the Partnership.

At the Forestry Co-op AGM, Mark reminded attendees that a public meeting would be held soon (May 11 at the Klahoose Multipurpose Hall). At this meeting he would present a review of the Partnership’s activities to date, and their plans for the next few years. This event would mark the launch of a public input period for the “Five Year Plan” for the Community Forest project.

At this point in the planning process, the five year plan is wide open for comment and feedback. And if there’s an area that someone thinks would be a sensible area to operate in — in the next five years — that hasn’t been considered, please bring that forward.

If there are any other features or concerns or ideas… basically what I’m trying to say is, it’s wide open to public feedback, so we’d like to hear from people, and everything’s on the table at this point.

— Mark Lombard

Currents interviewed Mark on May 19th, to offer our readers/listeners an overview of the material he covered in his May 11 presentation. [The audio version of this interview is quite different from the image-heavy text version, so we recommend that interested readers check out both media.]

The Cortes Forestry General Partnership, a community forest management body, was formed in 2011. It’s a 50/50 partnership between the Forestry Co-op and Klahoose Forestry Limited Partnership. Each organisation, one settler and one indigenous, appoints three representatives to sit on the CFGP board.

The Partnership was awarded a Community Forestry License by the Province in August of 2013. It now manages 3,869 hectares of public land, and is licensed by the Province to cut about thirteen and a half thousand cubic metres of wood per year.

Community Forestry Partnership Landbase & Cut Rate

On this map of the island, the green areas are managed by the Community Forest General Partnership — what the Province calls the timber harvesting land base for the Community Forest. The Province uses computer models to determine a ‘sustainable’ annual allowable cut rate (AAC) that the Partnership can harvest from those hectares. [Note: AACs are a controversial metric. Forest advocates have for years been challenging these official AACs; they claim the AACs have been manipulated for optics and to favour the logging industry, rather than based on realistic assessments of timber reserves, regrowth rates, etc.]

“Areas that are in brown are areas that are netted out,” Mark explained. “They’re so-called net downs, and they are non-contributing to the volume calculations that [the Province believes] the land base can sustain. And then a couple little more details — the pink is the legal old growth management areas or OGMAs. And the yellow is areas where the Partnership has been active, has harvested or operated on, since we started out in 2013.”

Those yellow areas symbolise the following activities:

The Forestry Partnership has chosen to cut only about 2000 cubic metres of wood per year, rather than the 13,000+ cubic metres that the Province’s models consider sustainable. In other words, they are taking a bit less than one sixth of the officially endorsed AAC.

How much hectarage does the Forestry Partnership cut?

We asked Mark what percentage of the landbase the Partnership is generally harvesting per year.

“Well, the community forest in total is about 3,800 hectares — and we operate on usually something like seven to 10 hectares per operation, so it’s a relatively small percentage. And we aim to return to each area about once every 10 years.

“10 hectares would be basically one quarter of 1% of the land base every year. These are extremely broad strokes, but yeah — seven to ten hectares seems large on one on the one hand, but on the other hand, it’s, it’s not large out of 3,800 hectares. The BC government’s projection of the community forest harvesting — 13,600 cubic meters per year — assumes forty hectares of clear cut per year.

“That’s their assumption, but we have only done one harvest that that fits into the category of ‘clearcut.’ The Squirrel Cove and Larsens Meadow blocks were quite open, but they still weren’t clear cuts. They were definitely seed tree retention. And then in the Carrington/Coulter Bay area, it was more of a thinning.

“And in the Green Mountain area it was a ‘string of pearls,’ which basically means a network of very small patch cuts, like small openings plus a little network of skid trails. But all the openings were under 0.1 hectare, except for the one at the very end. So, you know, we are operating on this area, but a lot of the area that we’ve operated on out of that, call it a quarter percent of the total, is somewhere that we can operate again in 30 years.

“Because it’s not like we’ve actually harvested all the volume where we’ve been operating. So on an overall basis, the impact is quite small.”

Wildfire Mitigation Efforts

While providing timber for local mills and off-island sales (and as a byproduct, firewood for residents) is the Partnership’s primary mission, in recent years climate change has added an urgent new priority: wildfire mitigation.

Mark explains the new priority: “A big part of the community forest efforts in the last little while, has been to try to get some planning done for wildfire mitigation — because the area we live in has increasingly long droughts, and there’s been fires on neighbouring islands in the past few years. So we’ve worked with the regional district since 2018 to update our Community Wildfire Protection Plan, and that involved going out on the land base, all over the island, with some professionals: Blackwell Associates in Vancouver, who are one of the leading consultants in the area.

“They went out with me in the Community Forest all over the island, and then they went out on the rest of the island as well, and came up with some recommendations. There were four that were specific to the community forest, and so far we have implemented about half of what was recommended in that report.”

Mark showed us where these mitigation efforts have been made. “This is a map that shows where those spots are. You can see the Carrington/Coulter Bay area and the Northwest. You can see the Anvil Lake/Gorge Harbour modification, that yellow diagonal line that goes right in the middle of the screen towards Anvil Lake. The Recycling Center is to the east of that, the, the roundish red blob.

“And then there’s an L-shaped blob underneath of the R E C Y high [on the eastern shore about halfway down], that’s the Squirrel Cove third growth plantation. And those are the areas that we’ve operated in for the community wildfire protection plan. Currently we’re developing a new five year plan for 2024 to 2028. That will involve discussions with each of the neighbours, all of the people who live in the areas that we’re considering operating in, as well as general public input.”

Upcoming Logging Activities

“If you look at it operationally, the community forest is kind of broken up into these eight or nine different areas — and some of them look like they’re contiguous, but in terms of access from public roads, it’s quite obvious that they’re separate. The Partnership has an ongoing commitment to operate in each of the areas on a rotating basis of about eight to 10 years.

“So what we see coming up next for each area is like this…” [for more narrative explanation of these projected work sites, please listen to the audio interview; starting at 7m35s you can “listen along” to Mark’s explanation of the maps below.]

Von Donop

Larsen’s Meadow

Squirrel Cove

Green Mountain

Carrington/Coulter Bay

Gorge Harbour / Anvil Lake

Mary Point

Public Input Is Solicited

Throughout the interview, Mark repeated that the Forestry Partnership is eager to hear from island residents, with regard to specific planned projects or just in general.

“There’s a new block — and this is an area that we are just starting to consider — it would be up the Green Mountain Road, north of all the residential properties. It’s a really great site in my estimation for commercial thinning.

“So a thinning project would be the idea there. It’s about five hectares. It wouldn’t be any new road building. There’d be a rehabbing of the old road; but we haven’t got timelines set for any of this. And the next step in this area in particular is gonna be to be talking to the neighbours in that area who use the lower part of Green Mountain Road for their driveways.

“The majority of the, the projects that I have in mind for the next five years are commercial thinning. So thinning projects that would be very similar to the Carrington/Coulter Bay project.

“It’s a priority area in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan because of the the residential neighbourhood to the west. Towards the end of this next five year plan, we would come back and do a phase two and that is gonna involve talking to all the neighbours — because there are a lot of neighbours directly to the west.

“And some neighbours have said they’d like us to do a thinning right up to their boundary. But you know, obviously some other neighbours will probably not want it so close. So we’ll just see what individual people ask for and then take it from there.”

Mark emphasised that the new Five Year Plan is in the works, and public input is very important to the Partnership.

At this point in the planning process, the five year plan is wide open for comment and feedback. And if there’s an area that someone thinks would be a sensible area to operate in — in the next five years — that hasn’t been considered, please bring that forward.

If there are any other features or concerns or ideas… basically what I’m trying to say is it’s, it’s wide open to public feedback, so we’d like to hear from people, and everything’s on the table at this point.

[The original interview was conducted by Roy Hales over Zoom, edited and remixed by De Clarke for radio. All slides and maps are courtesy of Mark Lombard and were used in his May 11 presentation.

Erratum: in the audio version of this story, the introduction incorrectly states that Mark’s presentation was given at the AGM. It was in fact given a few days later as a standalone event.]