B.C. Forests Minister Katrine Conroy describes overhaul of forest policy to redistribute Crown timber cutting rights, B.C. legislature, June 1, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

B.C. Forests Minister Katrine Conroy describes overhaul of forest policy to redistribute Crown timber cutting rights, B.C. legislature, June 1, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

Redistributing B.C. forest licences a long-term project, Horgan says

$2.5 million payment to Interior first nation a ‘template’

The first use of the B.C. NDP government’s new authority to intervene in long-term corporate forest tenures came when Canfor Corp. shuttered its Vavenby sawmill in 2019 due to dwindling timber supply and sold the cutting rights to Interfor for $60 million.

The transfer went ahead after former forests minister Doug Donaldson and his deputy, long-time industry executive John Allan, provided a payment of $2.5 million to the Simpcw First Nation to buy a share of the tenure. Documents obtained under B.C.’s freedom of information law describe difficult negotiations, with the Simpcw first demanding $1 million more to regain rights to their traditional territory in the Clearwater area north of Kamloops.

Premier John Horgan says that agreement led to the latest step in his government’s overhaul of Crown forest management. It came five years after B.C. saw Canfor and West Fraser close competing sawmills at Houston and Quesnel in 2014, exchanging timber rights to keep Canfor’s Houston sawmill and West Fraser’s rebuilt Quesnel mill going in the wake of pine beetle damage that reduced the annual cut.

RELATED: Interior sawmills close in post-pine beetle timber swap

RELATED: Forest tenures to be bought back, Horgan tells industry

The Vavenby transaction allowed Interfor to supply logs that keep its historic Adams Lake sawmill near Salmon Arm going. But Horgan’s government wasn’t about to see it happen without recognition of Indigenous title and resource rights in the regions

“Although it was difficult and hard negotiations, it was a template for where we’re going when it comes to compensatory take-backs,” Horgan said of the payment to the Simpcw June 1. “We need to look beyond the tenure holders to the people of British Columbia.”

Five big forest companies still control the largest portion of B.C.’s timber rights, and Horgan’s plan to double the Indigenous share isn’t based solely on using taxpayers’ money to buy it back. It includes strengthening the minister’s authority to decide on harvesting and road building, and the intention to “enhance legal mechanisms to allow tenure to be redistributed for harvesting.”

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy’s first demonstration of that came in May, when B.C.’s largest timber supply area around Prince George came up for renewal with a new, reduced cut set by Chief Forester Diane Nicholls. Conroy directed that the Indigenous share of that allowable cut would be increased four-fold to almost 15 per cent of the vast area.

The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, whose members benefit from the decision, sees that as a start only. Speaking on behalf of the group at Horgan’s announcement June 1, Takla First Nation Chief John French said the 1.24 million cubic metres of wood apportioned to Indigenous tenure holders in the region is the biggest in B.C.’s history.

“As true partners, we need to have access to tenure volume equivalent to 50 per cent of what our territories contribute to the forest sector,” French said. “Equal revenues from shared forest.”

The allowable cut in the Prince George Timber Supply Area was reduced by a third in 2017, lowering it from all-time highs between 2004 and 2012 to allow salvage logging of beetle-killed timber.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureforestry

Just Posted

Work has begun on the $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp. File photo
Work begins on Slocan Valley fibre-optic line

The $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line runs from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Jade Osecki leading a Fridays for Future climate march in Nelson in 2020. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Grade 12 student Jade Osecki wins Suzy Hamilton Award

Carolyn Schramm was also honoured in this year’s environmental award for West Kootenay women

Photo courtesy of Mercer Celgar
Mercer Celgar to install new technology thanks to $4.5 million in federal funds

Project features process to improve fibre processing and address regional fibre availability issues

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read