A letter of understanding to develop a strategy for forestry management between the Nanwakolas Council and Western Forest Products is a good step forward, said council president Dallas Smith.
Representing Tlowitsis, K’ómoks, Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai First Nations, the central island council will enter into talks with the forestry firm with a goal of developing resource extraction plans which have both economic, and cultural benefits.
“It puts a bit of a time frame going forward for us on discussions to make sure that we are managing old growth to a proper level, and making sure jobs and economy are still a part of the equation but not the determining factor, as they have been in the years past,” Smith said.
The agreement builds upon the large cultural cedar operation protocol, which Western Forest Products co-signed along with several other firms in 2020, which aims to protect culturally important large cedars at risk from “large scale” logging.
“Nanwakolas and Western will work together on developing a long-term view that supports sustainable and economic access to the full forest profile while incorporating the values and interests of the Nanwakolas Council Member Nations in designing the shared management approach,” said Shannon Janzen, Western’s vice president, partnerships & sustainability and chief forester.
“The Nations and Western intend to apply science-based and data driven approaches in concert with traditional Indigenous knowledge consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. This collaborative approach builds upon similar initiatives in other areas of the coast and we are excited to work with Nanwakolas on a joint planning and reconciliation protocol agreement.”
While Smith said the council is happy with the letter of understanding, he admits there is still lots of work to be done.
“We wish we could just flip the switch and manage these (forests) in perpetuity,” he said. “But these are complex issues, and the council is pleased it was able to play a role in helping the Nations get to this point.”
Over the next 60 days Smith said the plan is to hammer out a comprehensive agreement between Western Forest Products and all the Nations in the council, on how work will be done in these territories, and on how the work will look with old growth deferrals put in place.
While the timeline is tight for such important decisions, the council president expressed the need to push for solutions to resource extraction issues now.
“As First Nations we can no longer wait for provincial and federal governments to figure this out for us. We need to take our values to the table, and we think it’s a very progressive step by going to the operator – the people who have the license to operate in our territories – and working with them on a solution.
“Hopefully government will join and buy into that process as we go down the line.”