Forestry companies Western Forest Products Inc. and Interfor Corporation have agreed to follow Indigenous protocols pertaining to large cultural cedars set by an Indigenous Council in B.C.
Several other forestry companies and BC Timber Sales have also indicated their intention to abide by traditional laws outlined in “Large Cultural Cedar (LCC)Operation Protocol,” according to a statement from the Nanwakolas Council.
The council consists of five First Nations members –Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala, Wei Wai Kum, and K’ómoks – with traditional territories on northern Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland.
The LCC Protocol outlines policies and procedures for those seeking to carry out forestry activities and secure permits to harvest timber in these Nations’ territories. It aims to protect culturally important large cedars – which are at risk from “large scale” logging – under traditional laws and jurisdiction.
Large, high quality red and yellow cedars – also known as ‘tree of life’– are used extensively by First Nations for cultural practices such as carving dugout canoes, totem poles and traditional buildings.
When it became difficult to find cedar trees suitable enough for our cultural needs, we decided to make some rules ourselves for the remaining trees in our territories, said Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council.
“This way we make sure we have access to these type of trees going into the future for our current and future generations,” he said.
Explaining the workings of the protocol further Smith said that based on the dimensions outlined, if any tree is determined as an LCC by the First Nation it is off-limits for logging.
“The protocol just put up a set of rules that needs to be followed when trees of certain dimensions are found and how we’re going to manage them going forward,” he said.
In a statement, Nanwakolas Council called this agreement by members of B.C.’s forestry industry a “trailblazing move towards improved relationships between Indigenous peoples and the industry.”
“Nanwakolas Council has worked with the forestry industry for many years to help them better understand how the First Nations make resource management decisions, and in turn to understand the economic and other impacts on forestry activities of complying with Nanwakolas First Nations’ laws,” they said.
Smith, also said that the commitment by these forestry companies represents “fundamental change for the better for everyone.”
“The Protocol supports culturally important activities and increased environmental integrity, but not at the cost of economic certainty. Compliance with it will make things better not only for our communities, but regionally and for the province as a whole,” said Smith.