The Dungate Community Forest has hired a consultant as it continues to advance a plan to increase its annual allowable cut by 10 per cent.
That’s the maximum allowed by current community forest regulations managed by the provincial government and would increase the forest’s cut from the current 29,000 cubic metres to just under 32,000 cubic metres.
Community forests in B.C. operate on tenures set by the provincial government and the consultant is now looking at areas close to Houston itself, Dungate chair Steve Wright said.
“Of course, however, that would have to come from someone else,” he added of the prospect of increasing the land base on which the community forest logs.
“There’s no extra wood out there. If someone gets more, then someone will get less.”
In terms of current holders in the Houston area, both Canfor and the provincial agency B.C. Timber Sales have tenure.
Ideally, the additional tenure would be located close to Houston to make logging more efficient and cost effective, Wright added.
An added benefit would be a program to reduce fuel loads and subsequent fire hazards close to town, he said.
“That’ll be one of the matters we’ll be addressing,” Wright said of the information that will be in its application.
Formed in 2008 and owned by the District of Houston, the Dungate Community Forest began with an annual allowable cut of 20,000 cubic metres on 14,210 hectares of land.
That was subsequently increased to 37,000 cubic metres a year before dropping down to the current 29,000 cubic metres.
The 37,000 cubic metres cut amount was to take wood affected by the mountain pine beetle.
As with other licence holders, the Dungate Community Forest operates within five-year periods so that while it may not cut to its allowable level in any one year, or exceed the allowable cut in any one year, it must be in balance over the course of the five years.
Wright said the community forest is on target in its current five-year cut cycle of 29,000 cubic metres a year to be on balance.
“In good years we’ll cut more. If we can make money, that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
Dungate sells the majority of its wood to the local Canfor mill but can sell up to 20 per cent of its volume to a processor outside the community, Wright added.
On average, the community forest, depending upon logging activity, employs 10 people.
Wright noted that last year was profitable for Dungate and, by extension, profitable to its owner, the District of Houston.
The 2018 dividend amounted to $434,703 with the District of Houston council placing $130,410.90 into a reserve account to help finance the replacement of the community hall and $304,292.10 into a reserve account to help finance a new arena.
That follows the District policy of using Dungate dividends to build up reserves for facility replacements and not treating the dividend as a supplement to general revenues when making annual budge and financial plans.
As well, in following the community forest philosophy of supporting local non-profit community groups, Dungate sets aside money each year for donations.
That amount is approximately $160,000 a year and Dungate takes applications throughout the year, said Wright.
“What we look for is participation by the group that’s applying. What are they contributing,” he said.
That includes everything from sweat equity provided by the applying group to materials acquired or donated by others, Wright continued.
Separate from Dungate’s application for a 10 per cent volume increase, the District of Houston is continuing efforts to double the size of Dungate’s volume.
The District has already had several meetings with provincial officials and hopes for more meetings when council members meet with cabinet ministers at this fall’s annual general meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“The main purpose behind the expansion is to ensure that the District is maximizing the community benefit from surrounding forests, and enhancing the role that the Dungate Community Forest Ltd. Partnership is able to play in the community’s development,” said District chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck of council’s intentions.
“Any potential area for an expansion will be identified in a business case being prepared by Dungate Community Forest Ltd. Partnership in conjunction with the District of Houston. This business case will serve as a focal point for further discussions,” he added.