The Wells-Barkerville Community Forest is 4,527 hectares of Engelmann Spruce, Sub Alpine Fir and Lodgepole Pine north of the community of Wells, about 100 kilometres east of the city of Quesnel, in central British Columbia.

The southern boundary is along the Willow River less than 500 meters north of the community and the forest extends nearly nine kilometers north to include Cornish and Hardscrabble Mountains and the high southern slope of Two Sisters Mountain. From a Willow River tributary, Hardscrabble Creek, in the west the forest extends east almost to Eight Mile Lake in Big Valley, approximately 7.5 kilometers.

The lowest portion of the forest, just north of Wells, is at 1200 meters elevation, and the highest portion, on the upper slope of Two Sisters, is at nearly 2000 meters.

The forest is managed to provide the community with revenue from timber harvesting, to maintain habitat for the endangered mountain caribou and at-risk grizzly bear, wolverine and fisher, and to enhance education, research and recreation opportunities.

The community forest was established under the terms of a 25 year Community Forest Agreement. With that agreement the Province of British Columbia gave the company the exclusive right to harvest timber within the boundaries identified in the agreement, beginning September 1, 2014. In the tenth year the provincial government can offer WBCF Ltd a replacement licence for at least another 25 years.

The agreement specifies an average of 5,000 cubic meters of timber must be harvested in the community forest each year for a total of 25,000 cubic meters in every five year “cut control period”. The company sold the first five years of this as standing timber to West Fraser Mills and, in addition to purchasing the timber, West Fraser committed to meeting all of the province’s silvicultural requirements and other conditions.

Half the revenue went to the company’s shareholder as dividends to the municipality as supplementary funding for a community with a small tax base and aging infrastructure. The other half of the revenue is retained by the company for projects to meet objectives identified by the community and to meet the company’s operating costs.

In late 2018 West Fraser agreed to buy the 25,000 cubic meters of the next five year cut control period but harvesting of this timber has been deferred until later in the year 2020 at the earliest.

One quarter of the community forest’s land is off limits to logging to preserve old growth forest and retain areas for hiking and cross country skiing. The old growth provides habitat for many species of plants and animals including the endangered mountain caribou and at-risk grizzly bear, wolverine and fisher. Many of the trails were developed by the Wells and Area Trails Society (WATS) before the designation of the community forest and are still maintained by WATS.

Education and research are also priorities. The forest rises to an elevation of nearly 2000 meters, making it one of BC’s highest elevation community forests and creating multiple possibilities for research. The most southernly part of the forest is designated the Learning Forest, where education and research are the priority. Situated just 500 meters from the Wells Community School, this part of the forest is a “living classroom” for the school.

The community forest is managed by Wells-Barkerville Community Forest Ltd. (WBCF Ltd), a company wholly owned by the District of Wells. The company directors are appointed by the District of Wells and are volunteers who are assisted by a one day per week paid Coordinator.

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