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

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

lotto max logo
Are you the lucky winner?

A $1 million ticket was bought in Burns Lake for Friday’s Lotto… Continue reading

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister makes his way to question period at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Wednesday, May 13, 2020.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
‘Who owns the land?’ Finding residential school graves predicted to be complicated

Federal government recently promised $27 million to find graves across the country

CELEBRATING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
Council members and witnesses from the Hupacasath First Nation, left, and Tseshaht First Nation, right, prepare to raise their respective flags in front of Port Alberni City Hall on Monday, June 21, 2021. The flags will permanently fly as part of the city’s reconciliation work. See more coverage from the flag raising ceremony on page A5. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Vancouver Island First Nations flags to fly permanently at city hall

Addition of flags are one Port Alberni response to reconciliation

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

Most Read