September 2005 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
GRASS ROOTS APPROACH
An exercise in grass roots land use planning in BC is presenting an interesting model that other forest companies and resource users could follow.
By Jim Stirling
A successful exercise in grass roots land use planning in British Columbia’s Interior offers an encouraging template for forest companies and other resource users across Canada. The Tatla Project, as it became known, covers about 700,000 hectares in the West Chilcotin region. It’s an incredibly diverse area of forest land, grasslands, mountains and ice with plentiful wildlife and a genuine frontier atmosphere. With all that going for it, there’s no surprise the West Chilcotin is treasured by a range of land users.
The Tatla Project brought together partners as varied as the landscape. They all invested hard work, time and— significantly— a commitment to define an accord. The result was a home-crafted, workable land use product that’s now part of the provincial government’s subregional landscape plan. The Tatla Project is also a living document. It lays the foundation for refinements and adjustments as circumstances dictate.
The project was initiated by BC’s Wilderness Tourism Association. Ric Careless, the association’s executive director, recalls the story. “We approached Riverside Forest Products to see if we could demonstrate in a case study whether tourism and forestry could co-exist.”
Careless says the association’s detailed mapping in BC indicates the needs of those two user groups overlap less than people realize.
The discussions with Riverside resulted in choosing the West Chilcotin.
Careless says a general land use plan had already been developed in the area, the Cariboo-Chilcotin Land Use Agreement of 1994. Through that process, a group of people was established who had worked collaboratively before.“A level of trust had been developed and that’s core to the whole thing,” declares Careless.
What had started off with tourism and forestry broadened quickly to include Tsi Del Del Enterprises (more on that later) and the Tatla Resource Association, a sophisticated local group concerned with quality of life, wildlife, scenery and community logging issues.
Careless says the Tatla Project demonstrated land use plans can work on a site-specific level. “They can work on the ground for real folks.”
People would be surprised at just how positive all the parties were, adds Careless. “It went beyond the standard compromise. A synergy was developed there.”
Careless emphasizes that the experience in the west Chilcotin is transferable to other regions and land use issues.“What was done in the Chilcotin, can be done anywhere in Canada,” asserts Careless.
He says his association represents about a $2 billion swathe of the tourism sector in BC and is growing at 11 per cent a year. Careless notes tourism will become even more economically significant in the BC Interior’s post-pine beetle epidemic period. The Tatla Project helps create a level of certainty for potential investors in the sector.
Tsi Del Del is an interesting component of the Tatla Project.
The company was formed about 12
years ago as a 50-50 partnership
and the 500-member
Riverside is now owned by Tolko Industries. Tsi Del Del is an independent company, controlled by a six-member board, three from each partner. It harvests about 120,000 cubic metres a year for Tolko and the open log market. The company is also a licensee with a 60,000 cubic metre a year permit in a 10-year non-replaceable licence. The company crews do everything on its licence operations, from planning to post-logging silviculture.
Phil Theriault, company forester, says the lodgepole pine in Tsi Del Del’s operating areas is marginal, end of the spectrum type fibre running 0.1 to 0.2 cubic metres a piece. He says the Tatla Project meant meeting a lot of people in the region, doing an equal amount of listening and involving them all in the evolving planning process. “Everyone put a little water in the wine.”
The planning process required Tsi Del Del to respond to concerns and issues raised by the other groups. Block layouts, road locations and managing visual values were examples, says Theriault.
Tsi Del Del’s own crews were able to point out values and issues important to First Nations. A constraint for the company is the marginal nature of the fibre and the corresponding need to keep a close eye on the budget. Theriault estimates costs have increased about 50 cents a cubic metre through the Tatla Project process. But the plan has created a level of certainty for Tsi Del Del just as it has for wilderness tourism operations.“When I look at the map, I know where I can’t go,” says Theriault. “When we propose a new block, we know who to talk to.”
Brian Hansen is a harvesting supervisor with Tolko but worked previously with Riverside and Tsi Del Del. He’s been very much involved with the Tatla Project since its inception. A key for Hansen was developing trust and understanding about what everyone involved was all about.
“Everyone put extensive work into it to represent all the constituents at the table.” When it comes to forest management prescriptions, adds Hansen, the forest dictates what will and will not work on the ground and helps them explain what they’re trying to do.
He says efforts were made to encourage discussions on any underlying issues throughout the planning process. The project also needs the flexibility to accommodate changes down the road, he says. Hansen credits the Riverside and Tolko boards for making a commitment to the Tatla Project. And he agrees the process used is readily transferable to other regions and land use circumstances. “What we learned through this was that working as a group you can go far and fast if you have a bunch of committed people willing to make it happen.”
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