The British Colombian government says it wants the first nations to reach a consensus before deforestation in the old-growth forests in the shared homelands is postponed.
Tara Marston, director of sustainability at the office of the Kidanov Nation’s Heritage Leaders in the Northwest BC, represents a “high bar” in a complex process that was not clear when Forest Ministry staff introduced the provincial deferral plan last November.
“I think the general public, concerned about the old development, should know that working with many countries on this landscape is very challenging,” Marston said.
Marston said he first understood from the ministry’s message that “if you support these (allotted areas), they will be protected.”
On the contrary, there was an “unspoken expectation” from the province, he said, adding that consensus was needed between countries with one territory over another.
The BC government announced last fall that an independent team of ecologists and forestry experts had mapped 2.6 million hectares of old development forest at risk of permanent biodiversity loss.
It called on 204 countries to decide within 30 days whether to support a moratorium on logging in those areas or whether additional time is needed to decide.
Minister of Forests Katherine Conroy told The Canadian Press that if the first countries could not reach a consensus on adjournment with one another or shared territories, the province would assess the strength of their claims.
“If the countries do not agree we cannot automatically go from one adjournment to another,” Conroy said. “So we’re trying to do that and the staff is working very hard with the countries, you know, what can we do to reach a consensus, but in the end, it will become an issue of strength of claim.”
Asked how often shared territories affect postponements, Conroy said, “There are some issues with some countries, but not a lot of them.”
Any postponement will initially last two years and allow them to consult with the first countries about forestry in their territories, the minister said last fall.
After that, old growth at risk will be unlimited to register or added to new, sustainable management plans, he said.
Last month, Conroy announced that the province had so far approved a logging postponement on the 1.05 million-hectare old development identified by the expert panel. Of the 204 first countries, the province heard from 188, of which 75 agreed to the postponement in their regions, he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Forests said that about 7,200 hectares of old development at risk have been recorded since the government announced the deferral plan.
Of the 2.6 million identified by the group, 50,000 hectares were clearly interconnected with approved clearances approved before November.
Marston said his country had worked hard to review and confirm their support for those who had been suspended in the Kitanyov region before Christmas.
Until he follows Forest Ministry staff this month, a regional manager told Marston that the postponements had not progressed.
Marston said parts of the proposed postponements were interconnected with areas affected by the Nisca agreement, and that Nisca had been informed that it did not support the postponements because it was investing in the forest industry in those areas.
The Ministry of Forests later told the Canadian Press that the suspensions in the Kitanyov region had been implemented “except for a small localized area”.
The Nisga’a Lisims government statement said the nation had not yet decided on the proposed postponement plan, but instead “continued to evaluate it and see how it could affect our interests.”
They meet with forest licensees and understand how the postponements could affect themselves and Nisca members working in the industry, it said.
Asked if the ministry’s communications would have been better, Conroy said the staff was “fully working” to help first-countries and determine whether a portion of the $ 12.7 million set aside for the deferral process was needed.
Terry Diji, regional chairman of the BC legislature of the First Countries, said the province’s old development deferral process was still “a place where the unknowns are more numerous” and more clarity was needed on shared territories.
“On the one hand, we as tribal nations want to find some of these things on our own, but what if there are differences of opinion?” he said.
The first countries are asked to come to the decision-making table when many are stretched thin with limited capacity and resources, DG said.
“Overall, what we need to do is really develop that space so that we can have meaningful conversation and come to the ability to make those decisions.”
Kidanyo’s situation underscores the complexity of Marston BC’s deferral process – the lack of compensation for the first countries and forest companies to lose revenue if old growth is unlimited.
It imposes on many countries the responsibility of agreeing to deferrals in shared or overlapped areas, while there is no financial compensation for saying “OK, well, you’re not really going to lose your investment”, he said.
He added that the deferral process does not support independent analysis, which helps first countries and the registration industry to understand the potential implications of local jobs and revenues and how to manage them.
Conroy said First Nations has different perspectives on managing old growth.
Some have “invested in the forest industry for many years and see it as part of the path to economic freedom,” he said.
“Many of us say, ‘Well, why don’t you just pay for the countries?’ That, you know, is very colonial, “Conroy said.
“We respect the wishes, preferences and needs of countries. It is part of the reconciliation. If a country is involved in the harvest we must respect it … we must respect it. If they want to postpone it, we must respect it.”
Compensation “did not become a problem” during BC’s involvement in the deferral process with First Nations rights and title holders, Conroy added.
The province has acknowledged that funding will be needed to permanently preserve old growth for a long time to come, he said.
If a first country agrees to the proposed deferred areas, companies or communities holding the harvest rights may voluntarily exclude those areas or issue a ministerial order preventing the felling of old growth trees.
Under the Forest Act of BC, no compensation is required until at least four years have elapsed since the Minister issued the order.
So far, the province has not issued any order and the Ministry of Forests has indicated that “many” companies will not continue to enter the proposed deferred areas where discussions with the first countries are ongoing.
BC’s 2022 budget allocated $ 185 million over three years in support of forest workers, first countries and others vulnerable to delays, as well as legal changes that Conroy said would “restructure” forest management.
“The vision for the forest sector is to provide more value from our forests with safer, longer-lasting jobs and healthier ecosystems,” he said last fall.
The province announced last month that it would double the amount of Crown Forestry revenue shared with First Nations to $ 63 million this year, while operating on a new revenue-sharing model for the long term.