Klahoose & Cortes Island Obtain Community Forest

In a historic announcement, the Klahoose First Nation and the Cortes Island Community Forest Co-Op have been granted a Community Forest tenure on 3,700 acres of so-called "Crown" or public land on Cortes.

Their application was rooted in using the most scientifically advanced and socially acceptable methods of forestry, which have been developed to the highest standards of sustainability for the Great Bear Rainforest.

This comes as timber giant Island Timberlands wants to log thousands of acres of private forestlands on Cortes in an industrial model, which would clearcut large swaths of land and sell the raw logs mostly to the US and Asia. Cortesians have been concerned that this model will affect their drinking water, tourism industry, old-growth forests, and quality of life. In response, I.T. has held several public consultations and has made a few concessions to their logging plans, but the plans remain largely unchanged.

In November 2012, Island Timberlands moved to begin logging on Cortes. Cortes activist group, Island Stance — feeling that their concerns had not been adequately addressed — blockaded the entrance to I.T.'s Basil Creek property for several days, until Island Timberlands agreed to return to the negotiating table. They have not returned to attempt to harvest their timber since.This community forest tenure will give the Cortes Island forestry partnership a chance to demonstrate how they want forestry to be done on Cortes Island. They now embark upon a long, hard road of developing a forest stewardship plan that is in line with community values, in an open, transparent way. This process will test the resolve of all those involved with the Community Forest to maintain the delicate partnership that has been forged between the Community Forest Co-Op and the Klahoose First Nation. The partnership will also have to juggle financial and ecological integrity, in order to develop a truly sustainable community forest.