Community Forestry

Communally owned and cooperatively managed forests have existed since the beginning of human settlement but community forests only began to be enshrined in contemporary law in the mid 1970s, usually to offset, to some degree, the allocation of large tracts of land to corporate interests in south Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In most countries the government does not relinquish its claim to ownership and jurisdiction over the forest. Instead governments grant specific rights to the forest in exchange for communities accepting certain management responsibilities. These rights and responsibilities vary from one country to another.

These newly recognized or created community forests are now found in more than 60 countries around the world.

The creation of these modern community forests began late in Canada. Quebec established community forests in the 1990s, and British Columbia did not establish a community forest program in 1998.

By 2019 British Columbia had nearly 60 community forests, each with a community forest agreement between the Province of British Columbia and one or more community interests. Each agreement provides the community with the exclusive right – and obligation – to harvest timber within the boundaries of the community forest but obliges the community to assume specific forest management responsibilities. The Province retains its claim to ownership and jurisdiction.

In addition to cutting and selling timber many communities endeavour to increase the yield of non- timber forest products, protect and develop recreational trails, provide education and research opportunities, protect communities against wildfire, and protect community water sources and forest biodiversity.

The BC community forests are managed by a variety of legal entities, including limited partnerships, societies, co-ops, non-profit societies, corporations, municipal governments, and Indian Bands.

Half the community forests in British Columbia are managed by indigenous communities (“Indian Bands”) or by partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous communities.

The BC Community Forest Association, established in 2002, promotes and supports community forestry in British Columbia. Wells-Barkerville Community Forest is a proud member.