The British Columbia Community Forest Association has released a report showing that community forests in the province are creating 50 per cent more jobs per cubic meter than the industry average. They are contributing on average $1.6 million a year to the economy, and are making donations of over $100,000 each year to support local priorities.
“Every community forest is unique and each one strives to return benefits as defined by the local community,” says the report, but to better understand the benefits, the association developed a system to measure and track the benefits of community forests. The sample that participated to the survey included primarily small rural communities with an average population of 4,600 residents. Thirty-seven percent of the respondents were communities under 1,000 people. They operate relatively small forest tenures with an average annual allowable cut of 34,000 cubic meters.
But despite their small size, the association believes the results show how important community forests are to their communities.
While the individual community forests have their own priorities and motivations, the provincial government has four key objectives: provide economic benefit to the communities and the province; provide social benefits and promote community involvement, participation and forest worker safety; promote communication and strengthen relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and people; and be consistent with principles of environmental stewardship, reflecting a broad spectrum of values.
The association chose 18 indicators to measure progress toward these objectives, such as number of jobs, total economic activity, distribution of log sales, economic diversification, public engagement, First Nations involvement, forest stewardship and compliance with environmental standards.
Besides the economic benefits, the report also shows there are social, cultural and environmental benefits of community forests, like accountability – 93 per cent of the community forests report annually to their community; they support education, investing on average $7,000 and 115 hours in educational activities; they provide recreation opportunities, investing on average $20,000 and building or maintaining 19 kilometers of trail; and they work to reduce wildfire risk, treating on average 33 hectares and spending $5,000 of their own funds to reduce wildfire risk.