File photo

File photo

Land transfer meeting moderator questions why forestry deal was not on agenda

The Province has signed a five-year

The moderator of a meeting held last month to discuss the potential transfer of some Crown lands to Lake Babine Nation is surprised by an advertisement in Black Press newspapers about Lake Babine Nation Forestry’s (LBNF) new Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP). The geographic area of the FSP covers portions of the Lake Babine Nation’s territory. The plan will be in force for five years and specifies how LBN Forestry will be managing and protecting resource values such as wildlife and water while harvesting timber. According to the FSP, a primary objective of the Lake Babine Nation is to practice sound and sustainable forest stewardship while preserving its cultural heritage. However the FSP does not outline future roads and development areas but rather esplain how forest operations will comply with legislation.

Brian Atherton said before he agreed to moderate the meeting put on by the provincial government to discuss potential land transfers in the Babine Lake area to Lake Babine Nation with landowners in Smithers Landing and Five Mile he asked for complete transparency.

“During that process, preliminary to the meeting, what I said to the chief negotiator was everything needs to be out on the table,” Atherton said. “It is no good coming to people saying there is this deal and then a week later say there is that deal. So when that ad showed up in the paper, showing the proposed forest stewardship plan with a map associated with it that showed it was quite extensive in its geographic scope, I just went, how can this be? How was this not brought up with the 170 people who showed up at the meeting?”

Atherton understands that the Forest Stewardship Plan is different than the Foundation Agreement which is a long-term reconciliation agreement that would see parcels of land transferred to the Lake Babine Nation, but said stakeholders should know about everything.

“The forest stewardship plan is a different ministry, there is the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. If we have different ministries making different deals, I think they all need to talk together so when we have a big public meeting like we had, that the public is fully and completely informed of all the deals that were going on…. so to read about it in the newspaper and then have to do research to find out that it is 75,000 cubic metres, it is kind of like, wow, maybe everyone in government knew about it, maybe everyone in the First Nations community that was being dealt with knew about it, but the greater public perhaps did not know about it. So it is time for them to be a little more forthright so that we are all in the picture together.”

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson said this forestry plan was likely not brought up at the meeting because they are two different things.

“As the Foundation Agreement has advanced since 2014, the forestry interest we’ve been working on with our ministry and the Lake Babine Nation has evolved to be part of the Foundation Agreement,” Donaldson said. “Regardless of the Foundation Agreement, these are the forestry initiatives that were pursued with First Nations around the entire province and our goal is to increase First Nations participation in the forestry sector.”

Atherton said this is not about people having a significant concern or issues with First Nations.

“I think everyone— and it came up at the meeting— everyone wants to be good neighbours. But let’s all be good neighbours together. Part of the process, maybe the fly in the ointment, is that we have the government sort of acting on behalf of everyone in B.C. but not really being forthright with what they are doing on behalf of the people of B.C. I think it was a real err on the part of the negotiators,” he said.

Atherton added the biggest aspect is the unknown.

“Once bitten twice shy and in this case one deal, two deal, three deals in, are there four, five and six waiting in the wings?”

Smithers