Kaslo Community Forest members hear positive forecast for 2021

·6 min read

Members of the Kaslo & District Community Forest Society (KDCFS) heard some good news about the society’s finances, and defeated motions to alter the organization’s board structure at the recent annual general meeting.

About 30 voting members of the society met on April 14 via Zoom for the AGM.

“I don’t really want to be here this evening,” said board chair Steven Anderson on calling the meeting to order. He explained he meant he didn’t want to be “sitting at my desk, in front of my computer, looking at you in little boxes on my screen. I’d much rather be with you in person in a room somewhere.”

Of course, because of COVID, that wasn’t possible.

Chair report

Anderson said COVID had affected much of the society’s operations since March 2020, including forcing the cancellation of the annual Winter in the Forest Festival.

“We talked about doing the festival with the format to be COVID-compliant, but as we approached the date of the festival, it became clear we were not going to be able to host anything like we have done in the past, so we made the decision to cancel it.

“I was sad to make that decision – I love that festival,” said Anderson.

Another project that fell by the wayside last year was a plan to purchase Boards by George, a local private sawmill.

“It became evident that while there were some good ways in which the two organizations fit together, there were other ways in which it just wasn’t going to work very well for the community forest,” he said. “So the decision was made to drop the initiative.”

Anderson says work continues on looking for ways to diversify the society’s operations.

“So that at some point we’re doing more than just cutting and selling logs, because right now that’s all we’re doing,” he said. “The mood of the board is we’d like to be doing more than that.”

Managers renewed

One thing that won’t change, Anderson said, is the day-to-day management of the company. Last fall, a board committee decided to renew the three-year contract for the company’s two managers.

“We were happy with it the way it was written. We asked Jeff [Reyde]) and Sabrina [Mutterer] if they wanted to make any changes, and they were content to leave it as it was,” said Anderson. “So in February of this year the board voted to renew their contract, so it’s set to run until 2024.”

Treasurer and managers

The good news from the financial side was the community forest kept red ink off the ledger this year.

“You notice we did post a modest profit this year,” said Treasurer Jeff Mattes, indicating a $12,478 excess of revenues over expenditures. “With log markets the way they are, we have been trying to focus on improving our bottom line. In order to move forward with a different venture, we want to improve our bottom line while markets are good.”

Mattes says his job in 2021 will be working with the managers to make the most of any financial opportunities out there.

One of those opportunities that kept the society busy was wildfire danger reduction.

Much of 2020, said manager Sabrina Mutterer, was preparing, planning and fulfilling contracts for fuel treatment in and around Kaslo worth more than $530,000.

But the small nature of the operation, the difficult terrain they work in, and the shortage of available contractors means the company has been struggling with trying to be flexible and responsive to the volatile markets.

“It is difficult for a small licensee on a limited cut to keep a logger going year-round,” said manager Sabrina Mutterer. “And that has been our problem to date. Most are committed to larger licensees offering year-round employment.”

They were more successful with keeping a logger on full-time this winter because of delays in getting the wildfire risk reduction funding. And she said the society is committed to fulfilling its social responsibility to support local employment.

And the community forest’s other manager said he was feeling bullish on 2021.

“A year ago, the log market was pretty miserable. Then the summer hit and prices skyrocketed,” said co-manager Jeff Reyden. “In the last half of 2020, there were record prices. Similar to what we saw in 2018, but a little better.”

Because of that, Reyden said they were planning to cut 35,000 cubic metres of logs this year, about a 10,000 cubic metre overcut. Because of shortfalls in harvesting in a few past years, the overcut still keeps the society within its allowable harvest limits.

2021 should also see more road work in future cut areas and other planning and development work, he said.

Board debate

But it was the structure and makeup of the society’s board that made up most of the debate and voting at the meeting.

Board Treasurer Jeff Mattes sponsored a motion that would see the board reduced in size from nine members to just five.

“I put these resolutions in a number of years ago. I thought I’d try again,” he simply said. “Many times we struggle to get enough people to sit on the board. Nine is cumbersome. Let’s try something different.”

While acknowledging nine people was large for a board, several members came to its defence.

“Three years I’ve been on the board, and I haven’t really experienced meetings go long or decisions take a long time to make,” said Neil Johnson. “…I think – it being the community forest’s role to manage the forests with the community interest in mind – that a diverse set of competencies, knowledge and different experience and perspectives is pretty important.”

“A board with nine is a little messier to deal with, but we are a community forest and we want input from lots of different people,” agreed Steve Fawcett. “It’s one of the costs of being democratic.”

When the motion came to a vote, it was soundly defeated, with 66% opposed to shrinking the board size.

It was a different story for a second motion, also sponsored by Mattes, calling on all board members to be elected to the position. Currently, two seats are reserved for appointees of the RDCK and Village of Kaslo.

The motion actually gained a majority of votes – 15 for versus nine opposed. However, this motion would have had to be passed by a two-thirds majority of electors, and the motion fell one vote short.

Two other motions did pass – one to set up an ‘honorary lifetime membership’ for society members who have provided “exemplary service” to the organization’s health and growth; and a motion to allow the board to remove any board member who misses more than three meetings in a row.

The new board of the society (a vote was to be held at the meeting for two vacant seats, but both candidates ended up being acclaimed) was scheduled to meet this week to select a new executive.

The Kaslo and District Community Forest Society was formed in 1996 with the purpose of establishing and promoting sustainable forest practices in Kaslo and the surrounding region, and to promote the greatest benefit to the community from forestry initiatives.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice