Background & History
The Burns Lake Community Forest is owned by Comfor Management Services Ltd.
Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd. was incorporated in December 1998 as part of the Village of Burns Lake’s application to the Ministry of Forest for a Community Forest Pilot Project. For the first seven months of its existence, the community forest corporation was a company in name only, an inactive firm without assets or liabilities. All this changed with NDP Forests Minister David Zirnhelt’s June 1999 announcement that Burns Lake had been conditionally selected to test BC’s new community forest tenure.
Minister Zirnhelt’s announcement resulted in Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd. becoming one of the first four organizations in BC to be offered a community forest pilot agreement. Awarded in July 2000 after lengthy negotiations with the Ministry of Forests, the five-year agreement gave Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd. authority to manage the forest resources on slightly more than 20,000 hectares of Crown land surrounding Burns Lake. The agreement set the company’s initial Annual Allowable Cut (AAC-the amount of timber a licensee can harvest in any given year) at 23,677 cubic metres (m3). The company’s first seven directors were selected from the community forest steering committee (the volunteer organization responsible for developing the pilot proposal) and included representation from First Nations, business, industry, the Village of Burns Lake and the community at large.
On September 24, 2004 Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd. became the first organization in British Columbia to be offered a Long-Term Community Forest Agreement. Signed in April 2005, this 25-year renewable forest tenure replaced the original community forest pilot agreement, and provided Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd. with the long-term operational certainty needed to expand its operations. It also ensured the community would have a say in how the forest resources surrounding Burns Lake would be managed for at least the next quarter century.
Today, as the result of negotiations with the Ministry of Forests and various partner organizations (the Burns Lake Band, Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation), the Burns Lake Community Forest is nearly four times as large as it was in the year 2000. The company that manages this land base is recognized as one of the most successful community forest tenure holders in British Columbia. Its governance structure and guiding principles have been used as models by countless other communities seeking the opportunity to manage local forest resources for the benefit of their residents.
While much has changed since Burns Lake was awarded its first community forest pilot agreement, Burns Lake Communty Forest Ltd. remains committed to its founding principles, the most significant of which is its pledge to manage “the community forest for the benefit of all residents of the community as a whole.” This philosophical keystone continues to guide the company’s operations, and is considered so important that it has been written into the Burns Lake community forest license document itself.