Delegates during the BCCFA annual conference and gathering in Lake Cowichan.

Lake hosts make provincial gathering best ever

The recent British Columbia Community Forest Association annual general meeting held

The recent British Columbia Community Forest Association annual general meeting held in Lake Cowichan is being hailed an unbridled success.

“It was over the top. I’ve been doing it for 14 years and it was the best one yet,” said Susan Mulkey, BCCFA extension and communications manager.

The event was hosted jointly by the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative and the Pacheedaht First Nation, who have been working together to develop a future community forest in the region. More than 150 delegates from places across the province that have community forests of their own attended.

“The host community was so welcoming and generous and their planning was down to a fine art. They had a lot of volunteers. We never have had a problem of having too many people, but we actually did this time,” said Mulkey. “It’s a good problem to have.”

The conference was held from May 26 to May 28 and included bus tours to local forest operations, professional development workshops on technical and policy aspects of community forests and also lots of opportunities for delegates to network and share experiences and ideas.

On Friday night, the Pacheedaht First Nation prepared a traditional feast for guests.

The menu included halibut, crab, salmon and fried bread. Space actually ran out at Centennial Hall, where the dinner was held.

“People were absolutely delighted with the feast the Pacheedaht put on,” said Pat Hrushowy, spokesman for the CLCFC.

Hrushowy said the CLCFC couldn’t have been happier with how the event turned out, particularly when Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, announced he had made a decision to invite the cooperative and the Pacheedaht to apply together to the ministry for a long-term area-based tenure agreement for their community forest. The CLCFC and the Pacheedaht plan to form an organizational entity to manage the forest together. The lands available to them are in the Mount Balduc area and closer to the Pacheedaht village.

“It’s a matter of process now,” said Hrushowy. “The foresters will discuss and negotiate with the ministry things like management plans, the organizational structure that will be put together, what are your community consultation plans.”

The minister also announced the creation of a new $10,000 grant to be given annually to the community forest that “best exemplifies the values exhibited by the late Robin Hood and the community forest program.” Hood was BCCFA president for nine years.

“It’s such an honour,” said Mulkey. “[Hood] was very central in helping to create the tone of B.C. community forest association as collaborative and… I just about start to cry when I think about it.”

The ministry presented the inaugural award and a $10,000 cheque to Likely-Xat’súll Community Forest, which Hood was instrumental in forming.

The 2017 BCCFA Conference and AGM will be held next spring in Tumbler Ridge.