Deal reached between B.C. First Nations and forestry company to defer old-growth logging
The agreement defers old-growth logging in a section of forest north of Campbell River for 2 years
Logging will be temporarily deferred in approximately 2,500 hectares of old-growth forest following an agreement between four Vancouver Island First Nations and a forestry company.
The Nanwakolas Council, which represents four First Nations, and Western Forest Products have agreed to defer old-growth logging in a section of forest north of Campbell River, for two years.
The deferral includes preservation of 10 square kilometres of forest identified by an old-growth advisory panel as needing protection.
Another 15 square kilometres of priority ancient forests were also deferred through other agreements between the nations and the forestry firm.
In November, the government said it would defer the logging of B.C.'s rarest old-growth trees and gave 200 First Nations a deadline to say if they supported the deferrals or if they thought further discussion was required.
Nanwakolas Council president Dallas Smith used a pop-culture reference to summarize his reaction to the agreement.
"If you're a Star Wars person, I feel like Luke Skywalker in the newer movies – we have our Jedi powers now and we're not questioning whether we are or not," Smith said.
"We are First Nations and we are in control of this. And it's like Yoda said, 'Do or do not. [There is] no try.' And we're doing it now."
First Nations waited for years to ensure their cultural values were incorporated to discussions about forests and all that they hold, Smith said, adding that came together with the agreement.
Smith said unlike in the past, those solutions will come from First Nations, be rooted in Indigenous values, but still look after the economic concerns of the region.
Approval from First Nations required
Smith said another part of their agreement is that any other harvesting will have to be done after approval with all First Nations communities.
Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said Wednesday the temporary halt of logging in large sections of old-growth is an important measure giving First Nations and the forest industry time and space to develop long-term strategies.
"A temporary deferral is a step in a long-term partnership and vision for forest management that will benefit local communities and ecosystem health,'' she said at a news conference.
Tegan Hansen, a forest campaigner at Stand.earth, says all deferrals recommended by the old-growth advisory panel should happen now.
"I'm really not hopeful if the province tries to piecemeal small deferrals over a very long period of time when what we need to see is a process where instead of nations having to opt in to logging deferrals, we have deferrals as a base, which is what the recommendation is, and nations can opt in to logging as they choose on their territories," Hansen said.
"So we're really seeing a flip in the order of process in terms of what the old growth strategic review set out for the province."
With files from Kathryn Marlow and The Canadian Press