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General News · 25th January 2023
Carrie Saxifrage - CCFC
Here are the two action items in this article: 1) You are warmly invited to bring your value-added ideas to a community forum on Saturday, January 28 at 11-3, Klahoose Multi-purpose Hall; 2) Oliver and Rami, consultants to the Cortes Community Forest Co-op, have capacity to help a few folks with VA business plans. If you are at that stage, please let Kate Maddigan know. Read on!

When I started working toward a community forest on Cortes in 1995, I was a latecomer. Dozens of people before and since have been crucial to the effort. In 1999, the settler community and Klahoose First Nation signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding local forestry management. We knew as early as 2000 that the real economic opportunity of a community forest would be the livelihoods which could be created from the wood, not from the selling of logs off-island. Now – thanks to the Klahoose First Nation on whose unceded traditional territory we reside - we have tenure, an operational partnership representing the two communities (Cortes Forestry General Partnership), the prospect of a reliable supply of wood and some funding.

While we are still on the learning curve, I strongly believe that local control is our best way to steward our forests toward their healthiest future. The Province has told us straight up that it regards local economic development as the top priority for our tenure. So using the wood on island, or adding value to wood before it leaves the island, strengthens our tenure. It also provides real financial opportunity.

Our logo says: Reconcile, Sustain, Grow. Reconcile means that the community forest is a reconciliation between the island's settler and First Nation communities. Sustain means letting the forest age overall. The Co-op and the Partnership have done modelling to establish the harvest level that is 20% of the Mean Annual Increment of growth, as advised by Bruce Ellingsen, including some allowance for the unknowns that climate change is bringing. So far, the Partnership has harvested well within that limit. This means that we have data upon which to base our claim of sustainable forest management.

Grow means local economic development. We are finally at the step in which we need to figure out how to use community forest wood to strengthen the livelihoods on the island. No one wants to see as many raw logs leaving the island as there are presently. A lot of enthusiasm was expressed by residents for adding value to our wood at the “Making It On Cortes” events over the past few years. One value-adding entrepreneur on the island called the community forest “a golden egg.”

We seem to have most of the pieces for this step, but we aren’t sure how they fit together or where to find the pieces we still need. Our volunteer board needs help seeing how it might all be put together in light of larger markets and resources. So, when we received the first substantial disbursement from the lucrative VON 1 harvest, we decided to put a large portion of it toward hiring an outside consultant to create a “value added road map.”

Enter Rami Rothkop and Oliver Scholfield. Rami was integral to developing his community’s use of Harrop Proctor wood for value added products. He was a co-founder of the Harrop-Procter Community Forest, and he also co-founded, managed and grew the value-added division, Harrop-Procter Forest Products. Now he helps First Nations and rural communities do the same. He has 30 years of experience in this area.

Oliver Scholfield has degrees in resource conservation and business management. He’s a business planner and financial analyst who enjoys helping both individuals and communities complete feasibility studies for small-scale, local ventures or develop sustainability-focused growth strategies. His financial modeling experience ranges across a number of industries, from lumber to real estate.

Please come to the event on Saturday to see if you can find benefit from our harvested trees. This includes makers, construction workers, project managers, millers, planers, business planners, and (especially) potential marketers. Also, people with an underused shop, some extra land, a current product, a CNC router or some skills to share. I especially encourage women and young people. Even I have an idea, and don’t know if it is practical. Maybe you have an idea as well. Maybe we can do something together.

This is our biggest opportunity to date to identify the individual strands which can be woven into a story of a strong, diverse local economy. I think we all want islanders to have access to good livings, and to see many fewer raw logs leaving the island.

Rami and Oliver want to learn directly from our community so they can provide the best guidance possible. Their potential business strategies will be the result of your input.

If you can’t make the meeting, Kate Maddigan can connect you with Rami and Oliver in other ways.