Malahat First Nation and Capacity Forest Management Ltd.

The Malahat First Nation is on southeastern Vancouver Island, approximately 30 minutes north of Victoria, BC. Their primary ancestral tongue is the Hulquminum, but they also have living languages in three other dialects from neighboring tribes. There are 303 members of which approximately 124 live on reserve. The largest reserve of the Malahat is located on the west shore of Saanich Inlet, south of Mill Bay, encompassing an area over 230 hectares. An additional five hectares is held at the south end of Finlayson Arm at the mouth of the Goldstream River. Malahat means place of the yellow and black caterpillars.

The Malahat citizens are party to the historic Douglas Treaties signed between 1850 and 1854. The Malahat Nation is one of five Nations that comprise Te’mexw Treaty Association which is currently in the final stages (stage four of six) of agreement in principle negotiations.

Malahat Economic Development Ltd. is owned by the Malahat Nation. The corporation was developed to seek out and respond to expressions of interest in potential partnerships, investments and projects that result in new revenue streams to support the Malahat Nation. Malahat Tenure Holdings Ltd., formed in late 2012, is one of the companies created by Malahat Economic Development Ltd. and is wholly owned by the Malahat Nation. Under the incremental Treaty, the Nation had three different types of forest licenses – non-renewable forest license, the woodlot, and private lands.

Lawrence Lewis joined Malahat Economic Development Ltd. in early 2012 as the Nation Manager. He is from the We Wai Kai Nation, or Cape Mudge Band, Quadra Island, near Campbell River, Vancouver Island. He has 20 years of experience in executive capacity and a strong set of principles on how to put the financial house of struggling First Nation communities in order.

“I only work with Nations and Leadership that share the same values and principles…including a dedication and commitment to sound management and fiscal practices, as well as the development and adhesion to policy, governance processes and laws governing the Nation. Leadership must demonstrate their commitment to responsible and demonstrated Nation building through good governance and business practices…and holding everyone within the organization accountable to the same enduring standards and expectations.”

About Capacity Forest Management Ltd.

When Corby Lamb, President, Capacity Forest Management Ltd. (CapFor), started the company in 2003, he decided to work exclusively with First Nations and to provide a “one stop shop” for their forestry initiatives. One thing that is unique to CapFor’s business model is that all of CapFor’s clients maintain 100% ownership and control over their forestry operations.

CapFor is a full phase forest management company that works with each client to negotiate opportunities, develop corporate structures as well as provide engineering services, silviculture management, contract negotiations with logging contractors for harvesting, management of harvesting, and arrange sales and financing agreements with mills or brokers. Their clients’ territories range from the North and Central Mainland Coast through North, West and South Vancouver Island to the Southern Interior and the Kootenays.

CapFor is Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified (SFI), which is a green certification for forestry operations in North America that ensures all harvesting operations adhere to exacting environmental regulations. If a mill is selling logs on the world market, they are required to ensure the logs they buy have been harvested under SFI criteria but this certification is an expensive undertaking and financially out of reach for most First Nation communities. CapFor initiated a process that would allow them to extend their SFI certification to their clients. In 2013, CapFor was awarded the President’s Award (for all of North America) for their SFI work with First Nations.

About the Relationship

When Lewis joined the Malahat Economic Development he “inherited” a forestry file and business plan that was flawed, unproductive and losing money. “We needed to make immediate changes…and demonstrate success and profitability. I needed someone I could trust and that was Corby. I knew he would work diligently and vigilantly to ensure our forestry would be successful and profitable in short order so that we could put the revenue to work for our community. I also knew he was someone who gave back to the community and which is also one of my requirements for all of our consultants and contractors and business partners. They are paid to provide a service but as part of our heritage and culture when they are asked to give back or provide assistance in some way we expect them to say yes and to step up. At a fund raiser for our Cultural Centre, Corby was one of the first to step up. He is also donating his 64’ cruiser as a support boat for the Tribal Journeys canoe trip from Campbell River to Bella Bella, which Malahat are participating in for the second time.”

About the Project

Woodlot license W0030, located in the vicinity of Shawnigan Lake on Southern Vancouver Island, has been awarded to the Malahat First Nation, whereby the woodlot license is being managed by the Malahat Tenure Holdings Limited Partnership.

There are approximately 559 hectares within the woodlot boundaries. All of the planned harvesting will come from these lands. The first harvest is anticipated for 2014, depending on completion of the remaining requirements of the woodlot licensing process and market conditions. Proposed Allowable Annual Cut for Woodlot License W0030 is 2,948 m3 per year.

Small clearcuts and patch cuts will be the primary silviculture systems used. Larger harvest areas will be evaluated depending on merchantability, market conditions and site suitability. But, as Lewis says, “It is a bit of an illusion to think that the Malahat Tenure Holding is ever going to be a logging company because there is too much capital required and there is not enough opportunity for us to sustain it. We look at forestry as an opportunity to put trees on the ground, provide some training, provide capacity experience but more importantly take those resources for use in nation building. We will use the resources from the log sales to fulfill priorities the community feels are important – housing, the cultural resource centre, community development and infrastructure.”

The Malahat Kwunew Kwasun Cultural Resource Centre superstructure features 20 beams harvested from the woodlot. “We assessed our needs for the Resource Centre, we gave CapFor the specifications, identified the trees and had them delivered for carving and milling,” says Lewis.

Logging can invoke negative emotions in some people and communities. Malahat Tenure Holdings makes a point of reaching out to their neighbors within the Cowichan Valley Regional District and private land owners and keeping them thoroughly engaged and apprised of all logging activities within the woodlot. CapFor assess all projects for areas of archaeological and traditional significance and builds in buffer zones in the management plan. They also, as standard practice, exceed government regulations for protection of waterways and ecologically sensitive areas. “We exceed the minimum standards required from the Province. When we look at a logging block that contains a stream, we evaluate what that stream means to the Nation and if there is significance then we build in enhanced buffer zones for those areas. If there are community uses or community interests that need to be respected we build in buffer zones to protect those areas as well,” says Lamb.


The woodlot is within South Island Natural Resource District, which happens to be an area that is heavily utilized by recreational hikers, bikers and by individuals who are looking for “wild” areas for shooting practice. This heavy usage, which creates safety issues, raised the need for 24 hour security. Malahat Nation members were hired to fill the needed security staff job.

Another challenge is that one of the five blocks, Block A, is tentatively zoned as a park. The District Manager for the Forestry Service agreed to approve the woodlot management plan if CapFor, as project manager, provided a signed statement that they would not go into Block A for ten years. “On one of the five woodlot blocks, Block A, is zoned as a park by the Cowichan Valley Regional District. We are working through that to see what we can do with that piece of property,” says Shane Simard, Engineering Manager, CapFor.

Strengths Capacity Forest Management brings to the relationship

  • Decades of forest management related experience
  • Marketing, financing capacity and skills
  • Ability to vet contracts and manage logging contracts
  • Get the job done to the specifications and within a timeline
  • Provides full service forestry management
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified (SFI) with ability to extend their SFI certification to their clients
  • Integrity

Strengths that the Malahat Nation bring to the relationship

  • Negotiations are on a government-to-government basis
  • Integrity
  • Knowledge of the land
  • Potential work force

Benefits to Capacity Forest Management

  • Business opportunity
  • Supports Lamb’s personal commitment to help First Nations in their forestry initiatives

Benefits to Malahat Nation:

  • Exponential increase in knowledge on all aspects of forestry operations
  • Capital for economic development
  • Capital for nation building
  • Employment opportunities
  • Skills development

Relationship moving forward:

The relationship between the two parties will continue as CapFor is working with the Nation to develop a forest management plan for the piece of private land that is part of their Treaty settlement. CapFor will also continue to manage their woodlot and silviculture operations. “We foresee a long relationship with the Malahat. That is one of the principles of our company – we build long term relationships and remain involved in some capacity with the communities even after our contracts are over,” says Lamb.

From Capacity Forest Management’s Perspective:

Advice for forestry companies wanting to build relationships with First Nation communities

  • The relationship is the most important aspect of the whole transaction
  • Be patient
  • Be ready to train people
  • Build trust and respect
  • Maintain total transparency
  • Become involved in the community – a lot of the bands have been misled by a lot of disreputable people

Advice for First Nation communities that want to build relationships with forestry companies

  • Have an equal footing
  • Get good advice from someone in the industry you trust
  • Do your due diligence on the company – check their background and track record

From Malahat Nation’s perspective:

Advice for forestry companies wanting to build relationships with First Nation communities

  • All business endeavors are about relationships and holding people accountable – be accountable
  • Be transparent
  • Be trustworthy
  • Demonstrate to that Nation that you are going to deliver within timeframes and to required industry standards
  • Take the time to develop a sense of what the community needs are; one Nation may need a higher need or priority around training while another want to develop a logging/brokering company
  • Be prepared to give back to the community when asked – don’t hesitate

Advice for First Nation communities that want to build relationships with forestry companies

  • Work with companies that have a proven track record of working successfully with First Nation communities
  • Do your reference checks; follow up
  • Be sure the company understands the realities of working with First Nation communities – that they understand traditions and values