30 days is 'ludicrous' timeframe for First Nations to decide on old-growth logging deferral, chiefs say

·4 min read
The provincial government announced Tuesday it has asked each nation in B.C. about deferring the logging of ancient and rare old-growth trees across 26,000 square kilometres of forests. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The provincial government announced Tuesday it has asked each nation in B.C. about deferring the logging of ancient and rare old-growth trees across 26,000 square kilometres of forests. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The provincial government's 30-day deadline for First Nations to decide whether logging operations on old-growth forests should be deferred is "absolutely ludicrous" and leaves no time for meaningful dialogue, the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says.

The government announced Tuesday it has asked each nation in B.C. about deferring the logging of ancient and rare old-growth trees across 26,000 square kilometres of forests — the latest step in the province's strategy to protect B.C.'s largest and oldest trees.

Deferrals are a temporary measure to pause logging operations over the next two years while the province works on a new long-term plan.

First Nations were given a map showing the priority areas to pause logging and were asked to make a decision in 30 days as to whether they support the deferrals, require further discussion or would prefer to discuss deferrals through existing treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

"It does not, in any way, shape or form, represent a plan," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of UBCIC, told CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday.

"It doesn't provide the adequate space for those intense discussions, analysis and due diligence to happen within such a short timeframe. But furthermore, the province has not provided any resources to support that engagement," he added.

The provinces' announcement on Tuesday included a $12.69 million investment in capacity funding over three years to support the process of engaging with the First Nations Leadership Council to discuss the deferral plan but no specifics were given on how the funding would be used.

'Lip service'

If the nation agrees to the deferrals, the province said logging companies will have to either volunteer to put a pause on the harvest or be ordered to stop.

But Philip says the plan is just the government paying "lip service."

"They've tossed the hot potato to First Nations," he said. "Meanwhile, old-growth logging continues. The permits are still in place and the culling continues. And that's the real issue here.

"I think there's a misconception that somehow the B.C. government announced an immediate cessation of further logging in old-growth forests instead, and that's absolutely not true."

Terry Teegee, regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, said in the statement that the government failed to properly consult First Nations on the plan.

He said the plan was indicative of "the province's repeated pattern of advancing a mismanaged forestry landscape that fails to uphold Indigenous title and rights, jurisdiction, and decision-making.''

Teegee said the province, which has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, must fully inform nations on how the deferrals would affect their communities before potentially obtaining consent.

Jasmine Thomas, a councillor with the Saik'uz First Nation, said her community is involved in forestry and they're not asking for all harvesting to stop, but "business as usual can't keep happening, logging can't keep happening'' in areas of at-risk old-growth while the nation works through its long-term resource management plans.

Saik'uz has conducted technical work in its territory in central B.C., which has found "not only old-growth areas being diminished drastically, but also other related resources such as fisheries, wildlife and watersheds," Thomas said.

Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS

That work has also identified areas that could be suitable for harvesting to mitigate the impacts of reducing the timber supply on the forestry industry, she said.

"Mind you, we have all been aware that this decrease in annual allowable cut was going to be coming, in relation to the biodiversity crisis that we're experiencing and issues such as wildfire, [pine] beetles and other cumulative impacts,'' Thomas said.

Philip said more consultation with First Nations is needed, without imposed deadlines.

"In reality, what the province needs to do is engage in a very comprehensive consultation with all parties that have a vested interest in this issue ... and at the end of the process, come up with a legislative and policy framework that addresses these long, outstanding issues that have brought us to this point."

LISTEN | UBCIC president responds to the province's plan for old-growth logging deferrals:

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