Community forest proposed

Penticton council voted unanimously Tuesday to support in principle an application for a community forest outside the city spearheaded by local trails groups.

Andrew Drouin of the South Okanagan Trail Alliance and Neda Joss, one of the most vocal opponents of planned logging in the Carmi trails area, was before council Tuesday seeking support for the application to the province.

“Despite our opposition to what’s going on up there, 1,700 signatures on our petition… BC Timber Sales is still moving ahead with their logging plans,” Joss said, explaining a community forest agreement would give local residents the chance to determine the fate of their forests.

A community forest puts the management of an area into the hands of a non-profit group made up of local stakeholders. There are close to 60 community forests in B.C., including one managed by the Westbank First Nation in the Central Okanagan, two outside Lumby and one in the Lower Similkameen.

Drouin says the proposed community forest would include all of the designated intensive recreation area east of the city from about the 201 Forest Service Road to the Garnet Fire Interpretive Centre, plus a bit more.

Logging would occur, but at a slower more-sustainable pace under an 80-year plan guided by a professional forester.

“It’s our hope that wood is extracted, and will stay in the economic community — we’ve approached the Penticton Indian Band, they have a mill and they are not doing much with it,” Joss said. “It would be a perfect opportunity for them to fire it up again.”

Proceeds from the operation would be funnelled back into the society that manages the forest with leftovers funding trail building and maintenance.

“Our goal is the enhancement of recreational use by the proceeds of sustainable and selective logging,” she said.

It’s believed B.C. Timber Sales will have to pause it’s logging plans once an application is received by the provincial government for a community forest.

Community Futures is assisting with and funding the application process should the local governments of Penticton, RDOS and PIB give preliminary approval.

Council voted Tuesday to give that green-light with the understanding that the full business plan would come back to the city for approval before it is submitted to the province.

The community forest will not cost the City of Penticton anything financially, besides time contributions to the non-profit committee that eventually oversees it.

Joss and Drouin will take the same proposal before the RDOS board in March.

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