West Kelowna  

Westbank First Nation one of two B.C. communities awarded for forest work

WFN awarded for forests

The Westbank First Nation has received a community forest award, along with a $10,000 grant, from the provincial government.

"Local governments, community groups and First Nations manage community forests for the benefit of the entire communities where they are located," said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

"Due to COVID-19, the Robin Hood Memorial Award was not given out in 2020. So yesterday, I had the distinct honour of presenting two awards that will represent the winners of both 2020 and 2021. Both West Boundary and Westbank First Nation community forests exemplify the values of the program by looking for new ways to diversify economic interests."

The Robin Hood Memorial Award for Excellence in Community Forestry and accompanying grant are given annually to the community forest best exemplifying the values exhibited by the late Robin Hood - a British Columbian community forest pioneer - and the B.C. community-forest program.

Innovation and leadership in land management, building and maintaining social licence and involvement with the local community and First Nations, and providing social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits to the local community and First Nations are among the values lauded.

Westbank First Nation Community Forest was awarded for leadership in wildfire risk reduction and taking the lead on a planning process to develop a wildfire risk management plan for the community forest that includes a 10-kilometre buffer. It is also working closely with the community on FireSmart and wildlife hazard mitigation projects.

The community forest has also provided an opportunity for Westbank First Nation members studying forest management in university and college to apply their skills within their territory.

The awards were presented during the British Columbia Community Forest Association annual general meeting on Oct. 22. The BCCFA is a non-profit society and advocate for community forestry in B.C. that provides feedback on forest policy to facilitate community forest initiatives.

"The recipients of the 2020 and 2021 awards exemplify the values that Robin Hood, past president of the BCCFA, upheld," Jennifer Gunter, executive director, BCCFA.

The Westbank First Nation Community Forest boundaries balance forest management with traditional use by the Westbank First Nation people for hunting, trapping, food gathering and spiritual use.

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