The British Columbia government is overhauling the province’s forest sector with a focus on getting First Nations more access to forest tenures.
The goal is to double the amount of tenures held by First Nations. Right now about 10 per cent of allowable cut is in the hands of Indigenous communities.
“We inherited our beautiful ancient forests, and we owe it to future generations to protect them,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said.
“We have already taken action by deferring hundreds of thousands of hectares and protecting 1,500 groves with big, iconic trees. But we know there is more to do. Current forestry policies put in place two decades ago don’t adequately address today’s challenges. They have limited our options to adapt to the impacts of climate change, protect old growth, share the benefits fairly with local communities or move forward on reconciliation.”
About half of the province’s tenures are occupied by the big five forestry companies — Canadian Forest Products, West Fraser Timber, International Forest Products, Tolko Industries and Western Forest Products.
As part of its refocus on the industry, the province has released a position paper outlining next steps.
The proposed changes to forest policy include a compensatory framework to redistribute to forest communities and small operators.
The province also acknowledged the goal to modernize forest policy and protect old growth is taking time to fully implement. British Columbia plans on implementing all recommendations coming out of the independent old-growth review completed in 2020.
“We are happy to see this government is ready to continue talking about solutions to forest health and management. There are a lot of challenging issues that need to be discussed with many parties but respectful collaboration and dialogue will have greater impact and a more efficient path forward than the recent increase in activism,” Nanwakolas Council, and Great Bear Relic President Dallas Smith said.
“This paper confirms the need for the Crown and First Nations to continue to work together with all the necessary stakeholders on where that path goes.”
Forest products represented 29 per cent of B.C.’s total exports last year and were valued at $11.5 billion. More than 50,000 people in the province work in the sector.
“The future of the forest industry impacts us all, so what we do now is vitally important,” Minister Katrine Conroy said.
“We are taking action to not only address the challenges facing forestry in British Columbia today, but also so our children and grandchildren may benefit from the opportunities our forests provide.”