Highway 39 blowdown a lesson for the MLMCF (and other updates)

[Expanded article from The Buzzette May 18 issue]

Blowdown of trees in several thinned forest stands along Highway 39 is a result of a wrong approach to northern tree species, said General Manager Dan Boulianne at a McLeod Lake Mackenzie Community Forest (MLMCF) public information meeting this week.

He said the stand thinning, a wildfire safety project, was required by the Forest Enhancement Society’s funding rules, and was a learning curve for the Community Forest, which commissioned the work.

“Our trees don’t like thinning,” said Boulianne, acknowledging that northern species like spruce and lodgepole pine have developed and thrive growing close together in dense stands.

Some of the thinned stands, already on a “bony” landscape, have shown susceptibility to drying with increased exposure to wind and sun, Boulianne said.

Wildfire fuel mitigation reduces potential fuels at the forest floor and in the canopy. However, Board Chair Jim Atkinson said a “closed canopy” is the objective for a healthy forest stand that can
retain moisture at ground level. Boulianne said the Community Forest will be encouraging deciduous growth along the mitigation area to the best of its ability, and within “free growing” conifer guidelines.

This and other updates, outlined in the Community Forest’s 2022 Annual Report, were provided to a small group of attendees at the meeting Wednesday, the first of typically two public information/public advisory group meetings held per year.

Board Chair Jim Atkinson reported that the Community Forest has applied for an additional 50,000 cubic metres of tenure — still a tiny amount, he says, compared to forest industry giants. He announced also that Mackenzie will be hosting the BC Community Forest Association AGM in 2024, an event that can draw up to 250 participants.

The MLMCF expanded its grant funding this year to include a Community Benefits stream, which captures projects that benefit the community rather than just the Community Forest tenure. Grant awards for 2023 will be announced soon.

Dan Boulianne updated the group on the MLMCF’s involvement with the Omineca Growers Society’s greenhouse project on Coquiwaldie Road. The group is exploring alternative heating options after it was discovered that heat cannot easily be utilized from Iris Energy’s bitcoin mining facility next door. Options such as biofuel, solar and geothermal as well as traditional hydro power are being explored.

Meeting attendee Janice Nelson asked if the MLMCF has considered how to encourage more input and community ownership of the Community Forest. Ms. Nelson said that the composition of the board on the District’s side has changed little over the last 10 years, likening it to a “closed circle” which may discourage community participation and new ideas.

Boulianne responded that the current board works well and has accomplished much for both the Community Forest and the community. He said the MLMCF board would not recommend those members if this were not the case. Ms. Nelson commented that board appointments from McLeod Lake Indian Band change more frequently and asked if the MLMCF would consider one or two more seats on the board to allow for different representation from the community. She said community forests around B.C. have different board structures and objectives. Boulianne said such a change would have to be initiated from the shareholders: McLeod Lake Indian Band and the District of Mackenzie.

The MLMCF board is composed of seven members, three chosen by Mackenzie town council. on recommendations from MLMCF, and three by the McLeod Lake Indian Band. The seventh member is chosen by the board.

Find out more about the MLMCF at their website: mlmcf.ca.

Find out more about community forests at BCCFA.

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