The Columbia Headwaters Community Forest (CHCF) may become a reality later this year, but for the time being, progress must wait until the ongoing timber supply review is complete.

Timber supply reviews are conducted by the B.C. chief forester in each region of the province every five to 10 years. The review here in the East Kootenay region was last done 10 years ago, and a new one is currently underway. It began several months ago and is expected to take at least a few more months, wrapping up sometime in 2015. Once the review is done, the provincial Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations then divvies up timber allocations for the various stakeholders, including community forest groups.

“In some ways it’s (starting a community forest) is kind of at a standstill while we wait to see what (timber) allocation we may or may not get for a community forest,” said CHCF board member Steve Ostrander.

When considering timber allocations, the minister gives already existing tenure holders (such as forestry companies) and First Nations first priority before looking to other stakeholder groups such as woodlots and community forests, according to Ostrander.

“There are always changes to a certain degree on how timber supply is available. Nothing’s guaranteed, but we are optimistic that there is an opportunity (for allocation) this time for the community forest,” he said.

Several factors (including the merging of the Cranbrook and Invermere timber

supply area into a single supply area, as well as new research on forest growth) could lead to a larger timber supply here — which means more opportunity for space for a community forest — but several other factors (including pine beetle problems and major fires in recent years) could mean less, according to Ostrander.

“Our feeling is, to have a viable community forest, we would need an area with an annual allowable cut of 45,000 cubic metres,” he said.

The society currently has a study area encompassing 20,000 hectares (200 million square metres) of  productive forest, stretching from Radium Hot Springs to Canal Flats.