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Adding value, innovating, and collaborating: Lessons learned through economic diversification in forest-dependent communities

Julie Schooling, Victor Cumming


British Columbia's forest sector has seen substantial changes over the last 5 years, particularly in the areas of forest resource management, forest products markets, international trade conditions, provincial forest policy, and harvesting and processing technology, all with consequent impacts on the province's forest-dependent communities. In light of global patterns and pressures, it seems unlikely that British Columbia's forest sector will thrive by doing what's always been done. In response to these challenges, many forest-dependent communities have adopted innovative strategies to increase the economic benefits from their local forests.

This paper summarizes some of these community economic development ventures. The emphasis is on the lessons learned from the adoption of several new business models that aim to address the challenges faced by forest-dependent communities in British Columbia. Six guiding principles that contributed to the success of these community-based initiatives emerge from this review: passion and vision; preparation, planning, and defining clear measures of success; people, partnerships, and communication; the unique qualities and resources of a place; a combination of patience and persistence; and supportive government policy.

Communities are encouraged to look at the value and potential use of their natural resources from different perspectives, considering not just short-term returns, but long-term economic, social, and environmental sustainability.


community economic development; community forests; co-operative ventures; creative marketing; infrastructure; supply and demand

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