N.W.T. gov't pushes proposed Forest Act until after election, expedites Protected Areas Act
Forest Act had come under fire from Indigenous leadership for lack of consultation
The Northwest Territories' oft-criticizedForest Act will not be passed during the life of the current Legislative Assembly, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Robert C. McLeod announced in a news release Thursday afternoon.
The proposed act, which is an amendment and combination of two existing acts — the Forest Management Act and the Forest Protection Act — requires '"substantial changes," according to the release, and will re-introduced in the 19th Legislative Assembly, following a scheduled October election.
The act has come under fire in recent months from Indigenous leadership, who have decried a lack of consultation as it was drafted.
"It was readily apparent that there are still many concerns with this bill and those concerns would be better addressed at the working group stage with Indigenous partners," the release reads.
According to the government's website, the new act will include management of non-timber forest products, like biomass, requirements on industry to make fire prevention plans, and the recognition and affirmation of Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
"The minister and the chair also recognize the unrealistic expectation placed on the standing committee to review Bill 44: Forest Act and to provide a quality legislative product prior to the end of the 18th Assembly."
The Forest Act was one of several bills MLAs hoped to pass before the fall's election.
Protected Areas Act expedited
In the release, McLeod also announced that another bill, the Protected Areas Act, will undergo an expedited review during the current sitting of the assembly, which began Thursday.
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"Committee heard broad support for the Protected Areas Act from Indigenous governments, residents and other stakeholders across the territory, and we are pleased to be working with the minister to proceed with this important legislation during the May/June session," MLA Cory Vanthuyne, the chair of the standing committee on economic development and the environment, was quoted as saying in the release.
Earlier this month, Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation negotiator Steven Nitah pushed for an expedited review of the bill, saying that delays could put work to establish Thaidene Nene — a proposed hybrid national park and territorial protected area — at risk.