2012-Little Prairie Community Forest Inc. secured a Community Forest Agreement with the Province of British Columbia in December 2011 that granted the social enterprise access to a 13,884 hectare forest tenure. With this agreement, Little Prairie Community Forest Inc. will use sustainable forest management practices and Indigenous knowledge to look after about 14,000 hectares of Crown land north of Chetwynd and south of Moberly Lake. This includes managing ancestral sites sacred to local First Nations and providing recreational activities such as guided hiking experiences. This project is a cooperative venture between the District of Chetwynd, the Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations.
The project requires the development of a management plan that will represent and respond to the needs of all the involved parties. The goal of the management plan will be to maximize and sustain an agreed upon level of harvesting while maintaining all known biophysical, environmental, socioeconomic, and culturally significant values within the defined land bases known as the Little Prairie Community Forest.
There are currently thirty-nine active community forests in the province. Beyond the management plan itself, this project involves a significant amount of field work and will also incorporate the subsequent processing of the necessary applications to obtain approval to harvest timber. This community forest will allow the partner communities to create revenue directly through harvesting activities while meeting local recreational and environmental objectives and interests.
"The three communities have worked very hard to get this tenure approved. Our Nation looks forward to working collaboratively with West Moberly First Nations and the District of Chetwynd. We want to make the future generations proud when they look back at the decisions we make for this forest."
Harvey Davis, Chief, Saulteau First Nations
"Once up and running, the Little Prairie Community Forest will not only provide valuable local work opportunities for residents of Chetwynd, Saulteau First Nations, and Moberly Lake First Nations, but more importantly, will allow us to do so while maintaining all of the significant values within the forests that join our communities together."
Ben Beaulac, Forestry Supervisor, Little Prairie Community Forest
"This project will create a unique economic opportunity for our respective communities and provides an important management tool for the forest lands immediately adjacent to our settlements. More importantly, the community forest fosters a new relationship and establishes an essential partnership between the District of Chetwynd and West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations."
Evan Saugstad, former Mayor, District of Chetwynd
"The West Moberly First Nations are very excited to be moving forward with this three-way partnership, with the Saulteau First Nations and Chetwynd, to show the true nature of co-operative management of our forests. The forests have always provided the First Nations with our medicines, our food, our shelter and our spirituality. The land is part and parcel to who we are as a people. Our forests are renewable resources and will continue to provide for us long into the future."
Roland Willson, Chief, West Moberly First Nations
As part of the Provincial of British Columbia's goal to diversify tenure systems throughout the province, community forest tenures were established to enable communities with a mechanism to create and develop economic benefits and employment while having direct control of local forest resources.
Any benefits realized through the successful management of the Little Prairie Community Forest, whether they be economic, social, or environmental will flow back to the partner communities. Actively utilizing a community forest as a resource creates work for people in the vicinity of the tenure. Foresters are needed to designate and layout cutblocks, harvesters to clear the trees, and tree planters to replant the land. Once established, the Little Prairie Community Forest will provide a substantial boost to local economies for the District of Chetwynd, Saulteau First Nations, and West Moberly First Nations.