Climate and Communities – Community Forests
The way in which knowledge about the potential impacts of climate change is incorporated into timber management is likely to vary with different kinds of forest tenure. Community Forests are especially well positioned to be responsive to community concerns and to incorporate a long-term, place-based vision. In 2011, the Dunster Community Forest Society (DCFS) became our partner, and we worked extensively with them to evaluate their options in managing their 20,000-ha tenure area with a 15,000m3 Annual Allowable Cut.
Archie McLean, Chairman of Dunster Community Forest Society, in a wet cedar-leading old-growth ICH patch in the Raush River Valley part of DCFS's tenure.
Our aim is to encourage awareness and consensus on economic, social and ecological practices that require adaptation in the face of climate change. We are doing this by engaging community members and the DCFS Board in exploring options and finding ways to balance local values. During three months of on-site research in Dunster, the Community Forest team spoke with many residents representing many different interests. The diverse needs of the community members show how essential collaborative planning is for sustainable management of a natural resource such as a community forest.
The community of Dunster faces many challenges as a result of climate change and past logging practices. While much of the DCFS Robson Valley tenure area has been hit by Mountain Pine Beetle, their tenure area in the Raush River Valley still contains a substantial amount of merchantable timber. However, the Raush River tenure areas are not readily accessible, perhaps explaining why this timber is still there. The Raush River Valley is nearly pristine, and many Dunster community members are working to keep it untouched. Within the DCFS' tenure area in Raush River Valley are three wet and dry cedar-leading old-growth cedar-hemlock patches. These stands were unknown to the DCFS before the summer of 2011, and their identification resulted directly from our efforts to explore and assess the tenure area with DCFS. The decisions facing DCFS include choosing between the extensive clearing of low value beetle-attacked pine in direct sight of the Dunster community, or logging in high value cedar, fir and spruce areas in the Raush River Valley, on the opposite side of a mountain range from the community.
After discussing the conditions and challenges facing Dunster, the Community Forest team and DCFS embarked on two strategies. The first was to map the local economy and attempt to quantify how much derived economic value is kept in the community in the absence of any logging in the tenure area (Dunster is a new Community Forest and as of Oct. 1, 2011, had not received its single tenure-area cutting permit). Through a combination of mathematical techniques and social network analysis, DCFS has been given a definitive starting point on which to base decisions regarding the distribution of benefits, including logging opportunities, in order to optimize equitable distribution and capture of value. The data collection was completed by the end of August, 2011. The analysis has also been completed and the results, along with a modeling run, were presented to the Dunster community on Oct. 14, 2011.
Even without the guidance of the economic mapping, DCFS members are aware that they have limited opportunities to capture economic value from the timber beyond simply cutting it down and selling it out of town. The second strategy DCFS has embarked on is to redirect management focus away from a purely logging strategy and instead position the Dunster Community Forest as a destination for researchers and graduate students. The first step in this strategy is the extension of the originally planned workshops into an extensive two day conference, "Carbon, Climate Change, and Community Forests." The original grant called for six presentations to community members by the grant team, with one day in Prince George and one day in Dunster. Through the efforts of DCFS, the C4F conference was held in Dunster on Oct. 13 and 14, 2011, and had 14 presentations from 13 individuals, including people from Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, academia and the private sector. Additionally, local community members spoke about how important the community forest was to them, and how important the community was to their lives. Dunster community members opened their doors to visiting graduate students, and arrangements were made for low cost and free meals during their stay. There was a community-sponsored dinner and social on the evening of the first day. The conference was well attended, with 38 participants on the first day and 25 on the second day. DCFS hopes to turn this into an annual conference, with a recurring emphasis on learning about the impacts of carbon management and climate change on community forestry. Further details can be found at http://www.c4f.ca.
Evelyn Pinkerton, Tim Kelly