It has been nearly 25 years since the concept of a Community Forest partnership between the McLeod Lake Indian Band and the District of Mackenzie was proposed in a 1997 report. In 2003 the District of Mackenzie and the McLeod Lake Indian Band began discussion leading to the formation of a Community Forest (CF) held by one of the first partnerships between a First Nations and a Municipality. Community Forest License K2M was awarded to the McLeod Lake Mackenzie Community Forest (MLMCF) Limited Partnership in August 2009, just in time for the economic recession.
Initially, the MLMCF hired a forestry consultant to develop mandatory Forest Stewardship and Management Plan documents for public review and government approval. By November 2011 the Community Forest began its first harvesting operations and delivered almost 70,000 m³ by the end of 2013. In 2013 a consultant was hired to create a plan to salvage Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) killed pine in the community forest.
The allowable annual cut (AAC) for the community forest was initially calculated as 30,000m³ per year but in 2014 the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations approved a temporary increase allowing 340,000 m³ to be harvested between 2014 and 2018 in order to salvage dead pine and other harvesting for forest health objectives.
The community forest has been very successful at achieving this goal; harvesting 262,000 m³ from 2014 to 2016. Almost all dead pine has been salvaged and the community forest has now switched focus to the sanitation harvesting of spruce bark beetle damaged stands.
The community forest has become quite successful and, to date, has been able to provide $1 million each to the McLeod Lake Indian Band and the District of Mackenzie and is currently providing about $100,000 per year in funding to local organizations.
While profitability for a community forest can be measured in cash, no less important are more intangible benefits such as the long-term health and sustainability of our forest, employment, recreation and development opportunities for community members and harmony with all the other users of the forest.