Three months after signing a letter of agreement, the four member Nations of the Na̲nwaḵolas Council and Western Forest Products Inc. (Western) have reached a planning and reconciliation agreement.
This agreement includes a plan to defer harvest of approximately 2,500 hectares of ancient, rare and other priority old growth for two years in support of Province’s Old Growth Strategy.
Na̲nwaḵolas Council president Dallas Smith said the process has been hectic.
“We were taking a look at the existing old growth in the (Tree Farm Licence 39-2 on central Vancouver Island), looking at some of our future economic plans, and sitting down and having some frank discussions about what areas we were really comfortable with protecting right now, what areas need to have more of a planning process,” he said.
Over the next 12 to 18 months, Smith said the council and Western hope to fine tune what is actually going to be suited for long term protection, and what’s going to have more special management values around it.
The Na̲nwaḵolas agreement covers 100 per cent of the ancient and remnant trees in 1,068 hectares identified by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) within its tree farm licence.
Another 1,506 hectares of priority large, remnant and ancient forests have been deferred through other bi-lateral initiatives between Na̲nwaḵolas and Western, including a Large Cultural Cedar Protocol, TFL ecosystem mapping and an addition to the H’kusam area, originally deferred in the fall of 2020.
“I want to recognize the member Nations of the Na̲nwaḵolas Council and Western for working together to defer harvest of at-risk old-growth forests,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Indigenous and industry partnerships like this are key to advancing both sustainable management of our forests and reconciliation with rights and title holders.”
As recommended by the Old Growth Strategic Review, deferrals are a temporary measure to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss while First Nations, the Province, tenure holders and other partners work to employ sustainable forest management in a manner that prioritizes ecosystem health and community resiliency throughout B.C.
This agreement is supported by previous agreements between Na̲nwaḵolas Council and Western based upon pre-existing sustainable forest management standards that include retention of rare ecosystems. Western and Na̲nwaḵolas Council have a long-standing relationship, including working together on forest stewardship, and have agreed to complete collaborative plans that address their shared interests during the next two years.
“This agreement recognizes and respects First Nations’ interests as rights and title holders and includes a shared commitment to embark on new forms of collaborative planning that incorporate the values of the four member Nations,” said Shannon Janzen, Western’s vice-president of partnership and sustainability, and chief forester. “We look forward to advancing our trusting relationship with Na̲nwaḵolas and demonstrating how a shared commitment to leadership in sustainable forest management can effectively balance environmental, social and economic objectives and increase certainty and stability for business, benefit workers and support Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.”
The province is bringing together co-ordinated and comprehensive supports for workers, communities and First Nations to offset economic impacts that may follow from new approaches to managing old-growth forests in BC. Last month, the province announced it was making nearly $19 million in new funding available for the remainder of 2021-22 to provide enhanced supports, which are now in place.
“Our government is working to ensure resources are in place immediately to support workers, contractors and communities who may be impacted by old-growth deferrals,” Conroy said.