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

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

CVRD Area E director Alison Nicholson, right, hiked two hours to Waterfall Camp at the Fairy Creek watershed along with Comox town councillor Nicole Minion and Comox Valley Regional District director Daniel Arbour to meet with old-growth logging activists on Monday, June 7. (Submitted)
Cowichan Valley regional director visits Fairy Creek protest camps

‘They clearly communicated that they are committed to what they are doing’

Tim Wilkinson, who will attempt a double anvil triathlon on Vancouver Island on July 3, poses with his training partner, Shadow, who has been dragged up and down the Nanaimo Parkway many times. (Submitted)
Vancouver Island triathlete takes on ‘double anvil’ for charity

7.6km swim, 360km bike ride, and 84.4km run, all within 36 hours

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Most Read