As old-growth logging protesters block roads in B.C.’s capital city, a “joint planning” announcement is being made between Western Forest Products and four First Nations.
During the announcement on Wednesday, forestry minister Katrine Conroy said the government is “looking forward” to working with everyone.
“We want to see a new vision for how we take care of forest in our province,” said Conroy. “We are looking forward to working with First Nations rights and title holders across the province, we are looking forward to working with industry, and we are looking forward to working with community, workers, and stakeholders right across the province."
A planning and reconciliation agreement has been reached between four-member Nations of the Na̲nwaḵolas Council to defer the harvest of about more than 1,000 hectares of ancient, rare and other priority old growth for two years. Another 1,500 hectares had already been earmarked for protection in agreements with logging companies.
Altogether, the First Nations are deferring old-growth logging in an area equivalent to more than six Stanley Parks.
The announcement comes as part of the Province’s Old Growth Strategy.
Dallas Smith, Na̲nwaḵolas Council president, said the agreement will prioritize some of the rarest and oldest forests with this deferral.
“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,” says Smith.
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.
The two-year timeline will act as a kind of holding pattern, though decisions on long term protection of old-growth forests in the First Nations territory could come earlier, said Smith.
Shannon Janzen, Western’s chief forester and vice-president of partnership and sustainability, said the agreement recognizes and respects First Nations.
“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,” she said.
According to Conroy, 161 First Nations have provided feedback on the next steps they want to be taken.
“We are working with them on coming to decisions on that, as you can see deferrals take some time..." said Conroy. "This isn’t something that is going to happen overnight.”
Western Forest and Na̲nwaḵolas Council said they were working to develop an agreement on Oct. 20, 2021.
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 Tree Farm Licence 39-2 on central Vancouver Island.