Four more B.C. Indigenous communities have moved ahead on the province’s old-growth forest preservation plan, with an agreement to defer harvest on 2,500 hectares of lands on Vancouver Island.
Dallas Smith, president of the coastal Indigenous group Nanwakolas Council, said Wednesday the agreement with tenure holder Western Forest Products covers all of the ancient and remnant trees identified by the B.C. government’s technical advisory panel on old-growth preservation within Western’s tree farm licence 39-2 on central Vancouver Island. It adds to 1,506 hectares, including culturally significant cedar, that was deferred for forest planning with Western under a separate agreement made in the fall of 2020.
“The Tlowitsis, K’ómoks, Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai First Nations are continuing to strengthen relationships with Western through a joint planning and reconciliation agreement that, along with our Large Cultural Cedar Protocol, will prioritize some of the rarest and oldest forests with this deferral,” Smith said Jan. 19. “We have done a lot of work to put us in a position to actively engage Western and others around our important cultural and ecological values while balancing the socioeconomic needs of our communities and the surrounding region.”
Forests Minister Katrine Conroy, returning to work after an incident outside the B.C. legislature in December where she was knocked down and suffered a concussion and broken nose, said the latest agreement is the first of many more. About two thirds of B.C.’s 204 Indigenous communities have responded to maps and recommendations for deferral of up to 2.6 million hectares province-wide in her ministry’s old-growth strategic review.
Shannon Janzen, chief forester and vice-president of partnerships for Western, said the latest agreement is part of an ongoing project.
The Huu-ay-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island has been at the centre of progress and protests over forest management, and was the first to sign on to Conroy and Premier John Horgan’s province-wide deferral plan. In May 2021 it increased its share in a joint venture with Western Forest Products for ownership of a major Island timber licence and interest in one of Western’s sawmills.
In mid-December, the province and Huu-ay-aht completed a deal to defer 96 per cent of old growth recommended by the technical advisory panel, including areas of the Walbran and Fairy Creek watersheds targeted by protesters for more than a year.