British Columbia

Fort Nelson mayor 'dancing on the ceiling' after getting province's largest community forest

The economic boost is drastically needed following the collapse of the oil and gas industry in B.C.'s far northeast.

B.C.'s far northeast will also see major increase to annual allowable cut

Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Gary Foster says Tuesday's community forest announcement is the best news the region has had 'in a decade.' (Justin McElroy/CBC)

The mayor of Fort Nelson said he's "dancing on the ceiling" following a pair of forestry announcements made Tuesday.

First, the province's deputy chief forester revealed the region's annual allowable cut is being increased by 59 per cent, meaning the amount of timber available for harvest will total 2,582,350 cubic metres, up from 1,625,000 cubic metres.

Then came news the province is converting 191,000 hectares of Crown land into B.C.'s largest community forest to be jointly managed by the Fort Nelson First Nation and the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (Fort Nelson).

Mayor Gary Foster said after years of economic downturn, this is the best news the region's had "in the past decade."

"We're really excited about this," he said.

Years of lobbying

The deal comes after years of lobbying from local government leaders for more control over regional forests.

Since 2016, the municipality has been publicly calling on the province to create a community forest, with licences and allowable cuts managed directly by the local government and the Fort Nelson First Nations.

The economic boost is drastically needed following the collapse of the oil and gas industry which saw the community's population tumble

While Foster said it's too early to say exactly how many new jobs will be created as a result of Tuesday's announcements. He expects Fort Nelson to be one bright spot in the province as B.C.'s Interior struggles with mill closures and curtailments.

"The rest of the province has been challenged with a loss of fibre for the forest industry," he said. "We have an abundance of fibre and we're expecting that we'll attract a lot of industry to our area and with it, of course, the jobs."

About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.

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