Northern Development Initiative Trust’s pine beetle recovery account should continue to operate sustainably, and be used to fund strategic and highly impactful projects that help communities recover from the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
That’s what the NDIT board heard from community leaders across central and northern B.C. during a meeting in Prince George this month focused on finding ways to optimize the use of the $23 million account.
Representatives from each of the trust’s four regional advisory committees (Cariboo Chilcotin Lillooet, Northeast, Prince George and Northwest), the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition, Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition and Omineca Beetle Action Coalition attended the meeting facilitated by Northern Development CEO Janine North. In 2005, the Pine Beetle Recovery Account was infused with $30 million to support pine beetle recovery projects to help communities respond to the infestation, which has killed an estimated 723 million cubic metres of timber since the infestation began in the 1990s.
“On behalf of the board, we owe thanks to our regional advisors and beetle action coalitions for taking the time to brainstorm ways to optimize the pine beetle recovery account,” said Northern Development Chair Evan Saugstad, in a press release. “This year marks the 10th anniversary of the trust and a good opportunity to ensure we’re responding to the region’s needs – the recommendations we’ve heard so far will go a long ways to ensure this account continues to provide value to our communities and strengthen the region’s economy.”
The pine beetle recovery account is one of seven accounts the trust manages including the four regional development accounts, cross regional account and operating endowment. Since 2005, nearly $19 million has been disbursed from the pine beetle recovery account to support 215 economic diversification projects in areas where the infestation has been present. Recently, the account’s annual allowable grant limit (seven per cent of the $23 million account balance in 2014) has primarily been used to fund the trust’s economic development capacity building program, which provides $50,000 per year to each municipality and regional district affected by mountain pine beetle within the trust’s service area to support economic development initiatives.
In 2014, approximately $1.4 million was approved from the pine beetle recovery account to support economic development capacity building funding in pine beetle affected areas. At the April 1 meeting, regional advisors and beetle action coalition representatives recommended to the trust’s board that it adopt a policy to grant out between eight per cent and 10 per cent of the account’s capital base per year to support economic diversification projects in pine beetle affected areas.
The group also recommended that the Trust’s board consider making additional funds from the account available to support highly strategic or impactful pine beetle recovery projects as they’re proposed. The advisors recommended that such projects could include commercialization and community forest support, support for trades and technical education and small business and entrepreneurial training and mentorship, among other recommendations. The recommendations were forwarded to the trust’s board for review at its April board meeting, and staff are now working on policy updates for the account that will be forwarded to the board for approval at its July meeting.