Integral Forestry Project
In January 2004 Next Step Integral’s founder, Stephan Martineau, initiated an attempt to implement an Integral Approach to Forestry in the Slocan Valley of British-Columbia in collaboration with Lisa Farr, director of a West-Kootenay based residents’ association, the Elliot-Anderson-Christian-Trozzo Watersheds Association (EACT). The Slocan Valley seemed like the perfect candidate for such a project. How so? It had all the elements that would lead anyone to predict guaranteed failure. If an integral approach were to be successful, it would speak loudly for the approach. Let us explain…
Over the last several decades, the Slocan Valley has become known in British-Columbia as a place where the local communities take tremendous interest in the forests and watersheds that surround them. The vast majority of local residents’ domestic water supplies comes directly from small creeks that tumble down the forested mountain slopes and fragile springs arising from hidden aquifers. These are sensitive water sources on which the local population is dependent for both irrigation and domestic needs. For the last 30 years competing demands have been placed on the landscape by divergent interests: domestic water licensees, forest workers, forestry companies, and the government. The result has been tense relationships to say the least. After 15 years of dedicated grass root effort to come up with an alternative to the proposed and planned cuts, the logging industry, backed by government began, in 1991 to build roads and clear cut logging in people’s watersheds. Protests and ensuing arrests in the valley due to conflicting interests sadly became commonplace. Over the last 13 years, and as recently as 2004, over 120 individuals have been arrested, standing for what they believed to be a just cause: water and ecosystem protection. While arrestees paid personally for taking a stand, the community has paid with social divisions and a sense that the economic future is tenuous. Many tax dollars have been spent for very little return, and the situation was yet to be resolved.
We therefore had:
- a 30-year history of controversy with respect to forest management in domestic watersheds,
- extreme polarities in perspectives and a very wide span of value systems,
- an exceptionally high degree of awareness by the local population regarding the issues at hand, with very strong opinions on all sides,
- deeply entrenched mistrust between various factions of the residents,
- and the historical reality that the BC government has already attempted to solve this issue nine times over the last 30 years, by sponsoring nine different initiatives at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to tax payers without any success whatsoever.
This integral initiative would walk already charted territory, territory that had seen all kinds of approaches and processes stumble and fall. Was there any chance we would make any headway whatsoever? Could and would the integral map make a difference in navigating this landscape? We decided to give it a try. Since that decision in January 2004 we have been amazed and humbled, we have learned so much and are heartened by what has come to pass so far.
First three other residents’ associations that joined the initiative as well as one local government. We then received over 140 letters of support from a variety of non-profit organizations, as well as from government, businesses and individuals that spanned the full spectrum of values and perspectives! On January 14th 2007 we submitted an application for a Community Forest Agreement that covered 35 000 acres of the most contested areas of the Slocan Valley. Our application included:
- General Overview (historical & geographical context and implementation strategies);
- Business strategy;
- Management strategy;
- Map of the Integral Forestry project
In January 2008 our application was accepted, providing us with the unique opportunity to put the integral framework into practice in the way humans can interface integrally with an entire ecosystem.
Today we feel that the community of the Slocan Valley is poised and ready to write itself a new future, building on a growing foundation of respect for divergent local perspectives and commitment to a healthy and prosperous community. Our initiative is based on the following points of understanding:
- The residents of the Slocan Valley hold diverse perspectives and value systems in relation to the forest that surrounds them.
- These perspectives and value systems are guided and influenced by a mix of social, economic, scientific, spiritual, psychological, cultural, political, historical and institutional lenses.
- Our initiative recognizes that each of these perspectives and value systems are valuable and pertinent, and must therefore be considered and integrated into solutions that will work for all.
- SIFCo believes that by integrating all of these views, the solutions found will be more complete and viable in considering how the community and the forest will interface.