The Cortes Community Forest Co-operative (CCFC) formed with the specific purpose of holding tenure of Crown lands on Cortes Island in partnership with the Klahoose First Nation. The Co-op and the Klahoose First Nation are each represented by three directors on the board of the Cortes Forestry General Partnership, which, in 2013, received tenure over approximately 3,800 ha, about 35% of Cortes Island. This Partnership conducts the community forest operations with many goals in mind: financial viability, sustainable forest management, local employment and addressing firewood needs.
In the beginning, 60 members paid $1,000 to provide half of the $120,000 needed to start operations on the community forest lands. Additional members purchased a lifetime membership for $25. The Co-op values the affordability of its membership because decisions about community forest operations affect all islanders.
While the Co-op’s primary function is to appoint partnership directors from the elected Co-op board, it also encourages community members to take advantage of the economic opportunity presented by the local harvest of wood.
Prior to Covid, CCFC events helped cultivate support and interest:
One educational event was “Wood at Work”, a summer tour of island mills and houses built using community forest wood, intended to cultivate support among summer residents for prioritizing purchase of community forest wood.
“Making It On Cortes,” focused on the skills needed to create “lifestyle businesses” which give their owners control over their own time as well as a living wage. This event was co-sponsored by two other island NGOs. Tables provided introductions to basic skills such as small business book-keeping, becoming an employer, and how to market on-line. The community forest table was of particular interest as participants brainstormed how to make the most of manufacturing and marketing opportunities.
Building consensus around forestry
Another role of CCFC is to build consensus around forestry operations through research, education and discussion with our membership. Ecosystem-based forestry has been a community goal for more than two decades. Implementation has its challenges. One question is the reliability of the provincial data which would be prohibitively expensive to replicate independently. A volunteer ground-truthing project under the direction of a Registered Professional Forester has collected data from 40 random points in the community forest for purposes of comparison.
Future research and ground-truthing efforts will include establishing five permanent plots for ongoing assessment of forest growth and mapping the many ephemeral streams and wetlands which do not show on our current maps.
A real benefit of volunteer “boots on the ground” in the community forest is increased awareness of sensitive areas and potential habitat for listed species. In post-COVID times, plans are to include youth in ground-truthing efforts and coordination of regional mapping initiatives.
It always seems like CCFC is at a pivotal time. Islanders are investing in the right machinery to conduct ecologically sensitive harvest operations. For the first time ever, an all-island crew completed the Partnership’s most recent logging operation. Previously, our ability to supply wood locally has been intermittent. This could change, providing a regular supply for local woodworkers to build businesses around. Already, several are stepping up to the challenge and the opportunity.