Toward the end of 2003, the Minister of Forests announced the availability of Community Forest Licenses as part of the reallocation of forest tenures called for in Bill 28. In the winter of 2004, the Village of Slocan responded by sending a letter of interest to the Arrow/Boundary Forest District Manager, Larry Peitzsche. This was reported in the local newspaper, the Valley Voice, upon which members of RMRA (Red Mountain Residents’ Association) and EACT (Elliot/Anderson/Christian/Trozzo Watershed Association), who had been meeting through the winter to discuss the possibility of a CFA, and who were aware that in order for a community forest license application to be successful, it had to garner wide community support, decided to contact the Village of Slocan. After a few meetings, the Village and the two residents’ Associations decided to join forces in order to secure a Community Forest in the Slocan Valley. This initial step of coming together marked the beginning of a three-year process that would, probably for the first time in the last 35 years of valley history, bring all sectors of the community together behind one vision.
As conversations continued, four member groups emerged: the Village of Slocan, EACT, RMRA, and the Winlaw Watershed Committee. These four groups formed the core of what has become SIFCo.
The guiding principles that served as an underlying philosophy and approach for the core group initiating the project, are summarized in the following four points:
Residents hold diverse perspectives and value systems in relation to the forest that surrounds them.
These perspectives and value systems are guided and influenced by a mix of social, economic, scientific, spiritual, psychological, cultural, political, historical and institutional lenses.
Each of these perspectives is valuable and pertinent and must, therefore, be considered as solutions are explored and put into action.
By including and building upon these perspectives, solutions found will be more complete and viable in considering how the community and the forest can interface.
By late spring/early summer of 2004, members of the group began meeting with Arrow/Boundary District Manager Larry Peitzsche and staff member Pam Shumka in order to gather as much information as possible about the Community Forest program. D.M. Larry Peitzsche was encouraging and supportive. He saw the potential in the group’s initiative of providing a solution to the longstanding historical divides in the Slocan Valley community around watershed logging. He encouraged us to continue developing our plan and to move forward. Through conversations with the D.M., it became clear that many communities in the Arrow/Boundary District had submitted letters of interest. It was, therefore, apparent that a consistently proactive stance was required in order to stand out.
We continued to explore and develop our vision internally and with community input. We met with local wood-lot owners, the Sinixt Nation representative Marilyn James, and other interested parties. We held three community meetings in December 2004 and received over 70 letters of support from local governments, businesses, community organizations and individuals. In February 2005, we heard a rumor that we had peaked MOF‘s interest and that we might receive an invitation to apply soon. There was no public announcement, however, and with the spring 2005 provincial elections, everything was put on hold. Indeed, with a new Minister of Forests it took quite some time to get the ball rolling again. In the meantime, we remained pro-active, and in March 2005, submitted a substantial document outlining our proposal. It included a general overview, our proposed organizational structure, a preliminary business strategy, a preliminary management strategy, a series of maps, and copies of all our letters of support. Still, there was nothing to do but wait patiently.
In December 2005, we received an official invitation to apply for a CFA in the Slocan Valley. In September 2006 we held three more community meetings attended by over 140 people, and our level of support continued to rise. Toward the end of September we received a second invitation to apply, this one allowing us to double the size of our landbase. In December 2006 we finalized negotiations in regard to the landbase with both BCTS and Springer Creek Forest Products, and on January 14th 2007 we sent phase #1 of our application to MOF, the one that included the Springer Creek Forest Products portion of the land. In July 2007, Phase #2 of our application (the BCTS portion) was submitted, and in August of the same year, we heard that our application was accepted in principle. On December 3, 2007, our Final Management Plan was submitted and on January 14, 2008, we were awarded a Probationary Community Forest Agreement (PCFA).
We then began work on Forest Stewardship Plan and submitted our final draft on December 10, 2008. In January 2009 our Forest Stewardship Plan was approved: the last step necessary for us to be able to manage this landbase. In December 2011 we signed a 25-year Community Forest Agreement (CFA) with the Province of British-Columbia!