Work begins on first road building project of British Columbia's Alberni Valley Community Forest; manager says first harvest will be completed by Dec. 31

PORT ALBERNI, B.C. , September 21, 2011 () – The Alberni Valley Community Forest has made the jump from a fond hope to a working forest company, with the first road-building work already underway.

The AVCF holds cutting rights to 20,000 cubic metres of timber in the former Sproat Lake Division, and harvesting is scheduled to start this fall, according to manager Sean Flynn.

"We have two contracts signed, one for road reactivation and reconstruction, and we now have a log-sale agreement with Probyn," Flynn said.

AVCF issued a request for proposals to 15 companies in July, with four replies that met the right criteria, Flynn said.

"We selected two bidders and asked them to produce a price per [cubic] metre. Probyn Log Holdings won with the high bid. They've told us they are going to contract Don Woodfin [for harvesting], and for road building, they've hired RocStar Contracting. They're both local contractors."

AVCF has hired Don Moyen Holding to perform some initial roadwork. There are decommissioned roads and rail grades throughout the tenure, which is located just west of the West Bay Hotel, Flynn said. Some are still used recreationally and some will have to be reconstructed, ditched and culverted. Part of the community forest mandate is to practise environmentally sustainable harvesting, while at the same time improving recreational values, he said.

Mayor Ken McRae said the project has been slow in coming since it was first envisioned.

"This all started when MacMillan-Bloedel was leaving and the private land was going back into the tree farm license," McRae recalled.

The city began a round of discussions with then-forest minister Mike de Jong, who encouraged the community forest concept.

"We had a meeting at McLean Mill in 2004 where he announced we were getting the tenure," McRae said, adding that it was years before a licence was issued. "Governments take a long time to get things done."

AVCF director Jack McLeman said the first harvest would generate much-needed cash flow, but he would prefer to maintain more control over the product.

"This is a start and it will make money, and there is a good market for the logs," McLeman said, adding however, that he would prefer to see the logs, mainly second-growth Douglas fir, milled locally.

"What we need is a small-log mill here, and I believe we can get one," he said. "But without a dryland sort facility, we can't high-grade our logs."

Some of the timber is believed to be of high enough quality for log-home building, he said.

Those logs sell for a higher price than mill stock.

"But you have to be able to sort," he explained.

McRae said adding small-log milling capacity would be a boost to all local harvesting operations.

"Twenty-five per cent of the wood coming out of Franklin Division is also Douglas fir," he said. "A lot of that secondgrowth fir is going out as raw log exports. That's what we should be milling in our own community."

While it is hard to estimate the potential revenues, McRae said the Powell River community forest, with a similar-sized harvest, recently generated about $500,000 to the community, after expenses.

Flynn said the first harvesting operation is expected to be completed by Dec. 31.

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