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FORESTRY WEEK: Alberni Valley Community Forest puts the ‘community’ in its forest

Manager says user groups, general public provide invaluable input in forest practices
Alberni Valley Community Forest manager Chris Law, second from left, leads an August tour of the forest with board members Chris Duncan, left, Jim Sears, Ed Proteau, Gary Swann and city councillor Ron Corbeil. (PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB COLE, AVCF BOARD)

The Alberni Valley Community Forest takes a community-based approach to management.

While the forest belongs to the City of Port Alberni and is managed by Chris Law and his company, the public has a say in how the forest is managed, says Law. Public input is considered in two different ways: through an annual open house and survey, and through meetings with user groups.

“We have a survey that we put out to the public (to discover) what their values are for the forest and we put that into our management plan.”

They meet with user groups at least once a year: hikers, all-terrain vehicle riders. “It’s good to get everyone together,” Law said. “Certain recreation users bring up concerns…the people out there using (the forest) …that look at our harvesting practices and our silviculture practices and tell us what that’s like.”

User groups give forest managers suggestions on which features they would like to see opened up. For example, Law plans to harvest close to the forest fire lookout tower above Sproat Lake. It’s an area where hiking groups have indicated they would like closer access.

Law had forest users in mind as he made plans to work around a slide that occurred on the road to the trail up to Mt. Klitsa. His crews were able to create a parking lot in an area they were planning on harvesting at the bottom of Klitsa Creek, closer to Taylor Main. When finished, the reconfiguration will give hikers better access to the trail.

“We have the recreation user group just to focus. They’re out there a lot,” Law explained. “We have the open house for the public because we want to hear from the public.”

Law brings board members to the community forest at least once a year for an on-site explanation of management techniques. “It’s good for the board to get out in the forest and see what we are talking about,” he said.

The community forest saw some of its busiest use ever during the coronavirus pandemic, when people were encouraged to go outdoors while keeping socially distanced. That use continues, Law said.

Another way people are using the community forest is as a source for firewood. The community forest will again be offering firewood cutting opportunities, once the fire hazard is lower, Law said. When crews harvest an area they typically move leftover pieces closer to the side of access roads within the forest so it’s easier for the public to get to firewood cutting areas. Moving usable wood makes the harvesting site cleaner too.

“There’s less damaging impact for the environment by burning slash,” Law said. Firewood permits are issued through the South Island Forest District—search for firewood permits.

Representatives from the community forest board were at the Sept. 26 Port Alberni City Council meeting to present their annual dividend cheque to the city. This year’s cheque was for $300,000.

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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