Quesnel Wants Mountain Pine Beetle Funds ‘Expedited’
Quesnel, B.C. – The City of Quesnel has passed a resolution calling on Northern Development Initiative Trust to expedite investments in their city and region from NDIT’s Mountain Pine Beetle Fund.
“That fund has significant resources in it that we believe should be made available to our community in a more deliberate manner then what’s currently available from Northern Trust,” says Mayor Bob Simpson. “Right now, Northern Trust basically requires you to go through their normal regional account, their normal funding envelopes then you can apply for a little bit of incremental funding from the Pine Beetle account. We’re saying that that Pine Beetle account should be coming in to pine beetle impacted communities more directly.”
He says that’s especially important for Quesnel, because it’s been designated a “red zone” community –- or a heavily dependent forestry community. Other “red zone” communities include Williams Lake, Vanderhoof, Burns Lake and Houston.
“We believe that the time is now. In the Quesnel area, we’re going to see our annual allowable cut reduction anytime soon, within the next month. That’s going to start triggering a series of evens that may cause us to see more contraction in the industry. The softwood lumber dispute is just adding insult to injury there and may cause even more contraction in the industry.”
(He says they are also open to a portion of it being perpetual provided they could access it directly).
Simpson says the money could be put towards “a wide array of things” – for example amenities to help attract professionals to town.
“We’re now moving into professional recruitment and we’ve heard loud and clear from a lot of our doctors’ that to stay in our community we need to have more indoor activities for their kids. So, we’re trying to build a new gymnastics facility that has an indoor playground and an indoor climate wall.”
For his part, NDIT CEO Joel McKay points out that since the Mountain Pine Beetle Fund was first created in 2005, $25.7 million has been moved “into projects throughout the region.”
“So, we haven’t exactly been sitting on a mountain of pine beetle funds, it’s been a very active account for us. Those funds have been used to support everything from economic development capacity building in municipalities and regional districts to directly going into capital projects.”
He adds through strong fiscal management, there’s around $24 million left which remains active through annual grants which are put towards economic development capacity building and economic projects not to mention the Trust’s two-year, $1 million Forest Innovation Fund.
“In regards to where we go from here with it, we’re going to be meeting with all our regional advisory communities in March and we’re going to be having a discussion with them around what is the best use of those funds going forward,” says McKay.
“We did this two years ago, so it’s a repeat of the process again. We want to make sure we’re really responsive to our communities and we understand what the needs are. In the Cariboo, we’ll be meeting with them in March and having a discussion and certainly we’re aware of some of the concerns in places like Quesnel and Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.”
He says those meetings will be a chance to take everything into consideration.
“I think the discussion is really less about spend, spend, spend and more about how do you strategically spend those dollars on the things that make the most difference in the local economy and that’s what the Trust was created to do in the first place.”
Following those discussion, McKay anticipates they’ll be coming back to the Board and staff with some recommendations come April.