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BC aiming to double forest tenures for Indigenous communities

(Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)

An overhaul of the province’s forestry sector is on the horizon.

The BC Government set out its plan that intends to make the sector more diverse, competitive and to ramp up the number of tenures held by First Nations.

As it stands, just 10% of the allowable cut belongs to Indigenous communities.

“Forests are at the heart of our identity here in B.C. They are essential to a healthy environment and provide good jobs to tens of thousands of British Columbians,” said Premier John Horgan.

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“We inherited our beautiful ancient forests, and we owe it to future generations to protect them. We have already taken action by deferring hundreds of thousands of hectares and protecting 1,500 groves with big, iconic trees. But we know there is more to do. Current forestry policies – put in place two decades ago – don’t adequately address today’s challenges. They have limited our options to adapt to the impacts of climate change, protect old-growth, share the benefits fairly with local communities or move forward on reconciliation.”

The province issued a position paper on Tuesday on what steps are to be taken in future months.

One of them is proposed to change to forest policy, which includes a framework to redistribute smaller operations and forest-reliant communities.

“The forest sector is integral to the well-being of B.C. communities, whether they are large or small, rural or urban. Finding a way forward that recognizes and mitigates climate change, the broader values of forests to communities, and contributes to sustainable local jobs and economies is crucial, and I’m pleased to see the Province moving in this direction, ” said Brian Frenkel, UBCM President.

In addition, the government is looking to modernize forest policy and admits protecting old-growth will take some time to implement.

According to a news release, forest products represented 29% of BC’s total exports last year and were valued at $11.5 billion dollars. Over 50-thousand people currently work in the sector.

In addition, there have been 1,620 permanent, 420 temporary, and 820 indefinite job losses in forestry.

“We all want to do forestry in a way that supports local communities, respects the need for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and considers biodiversity and ecosystem health. I want to recognize the Province for taking this step and look forward to continuing to work together developing the policy and guidance that will make this change happen,” – Bob Simpson, Quesnel mayor.

In May, the government announced First Nations communities are about to play a bigger role within the Prince George Timber Supply Area.

The percentage of the Annual Allowable Cut for Indigenous communities within the TSA goes from the 3.6% mark established in 2012 to a whopping 14.9%.

The new allotment intends to give increased access to tenure agreements for more businesses and First Nations.

A link to the presentation can be found here.

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