A new sharing agreement for the Quesnel Timber Supply Area is giving local government, First Nations and community more of a say in how forests are managed.
Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), announced the new sharing agreement, called apportionment, Wednesday, Nov. 13 at the Quesnel Forestry Innovation Centre. He was joined by Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson and representatives from the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance (SDNA), Nazko First Nation, Lhtako Dené First Nation, ?Esdilagh First Nation and C&C Wood Products.
The apportionment is a vision of how government would like to see the allowable annual cut of a management unit distributed amongst the forms of agreement. It categorizes, by licence type, the breakdown of available volume within the allowable annual cut of a timber supply area that has already been determined by the chief forester or deputy chief forester.
“We know that we need to change our forest sector to managing forest communities, Indigenous Nations, make them more resilient when faced with challenges we’re currently seeing,” said Kahlon. “For years, local governments and First Nations have been asking for a different approach to how we manage our forests. So we are choosing to do things a little differently. Our approach aims to support Indigenous reconciliation, recognize the value of increased community involvement in local resource management, and diversify the forest sector in and around forest communities to enhance local economic stability.”
The announcement includes an increase in available First Nations woodland tenure from 42,650 cubic metres to 162,500 cubic metres.
As well, 77,000 cubic metres have been earmarked for new community forest agreement opportunities.
“B.C. Timber Sales volume will remain whole at 500,000 cubic metres to maintain the integrity of our market pricing system,” said Kahlon. “The new apportionment for Quesnel Timber Supply Area continues to support the traditional forest sector in the area but today, on behalf of Minister [Doug] Donaldson, I’m proud to announce that we will also create volume opportunities for Indigenous nations, local communities and smaller stakeholders.”
On June 16, 2017, Chief Forester Diane Nicholls announced that the allowable annual cut for the Quesnel Timber Supply Area was 2,607,000 cubic metres, with harvest maximums of 127,000 cubic metres from deciduous tree-leading stands, 1.25 million cubic metres from living trees and the remainder to be harvested from dead trees.
Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the apportionment breaks down as follows (in cubic metres):
• Replaceable forest licences (generally, held by larger licensees): 1,237,548 (662,500 live)
• Non-replaceable forest licences: 599,952 (95,000 live and 100,000 deciduous)
• First Nations woodland licence: 162,500 (all live)
• B.C. Timber Sales: 500,000 (250,000 live)
• Community forest agreement: 77,000 (50,000 live and 27,000 deciduous)
• Forest service reserve: 30,000 (all live)
“Today, B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and staff from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development worked with ?Esdilagh First Nation and the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance to break new ground in the area of forestry, which meant ditching the status quo of the Quesnel Timber Supply Area apportionment process and working together in a new way,” said ?Esdilagh First Nation Councillor Chad Stump. “Both ?Esdilagh First Nation and the SDNA were awarded more timber volume. The Tsilhqot’in National Government and the Nation and the SDNA have a Memorandum of Understanding, which provided the foundation for this work. This new Quesnel Timber Supply Area apportionment process demonstrates that the B.C. government is committed to involve First Nations more in forestry and that it is serious to its commitment to the implementation of the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.
“?Esdilagh First Nation remains committed to sustaining the local forest economy in the Quesnel region and will be active in forest management decision-making that encompasses our people’s goals and values. ?Esdilagh First Nation is also committed to sustaining its working relationship with major forest licensees in the Quesnel region, and we are open to all business opportunities.”
Stump thanked the City of Quesnel and Simpson, whom he says has been “an active player” in forging a relationship with the Tsilhqot’in Nation, especially when it pertains to the reconciliation efforts concerning the six Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs of 1864-65.
“This news is a positive step forward to forging a new government-to-government relationship,” he said. “The Tsilhqot’in Nation is ready to put action behind reconciliation and applauds the B.C. forests minister for his decision today.”
Nazko Chief Stuart Alec thanked FLNRORD and City of Quesnel staff for working with the SDNA in their approach to this apportionment decision and thanked their partners and the City of Quesnel and fellow chiefs and technicians for their commitment and work.
“I also would like to thank and give much appreciation to the minister’s decision on moving towards a better relationship with First Nations,” he said. “I don’t like using the word ‘reconciliation’ so much; I don’t know if that relationship was there in the past. But today, I really feel this is a true step forward towards true relationship building from a government-to-government relationship.”
Alec also acknowledge the industry partners in the room and highlighted the opportunity this announcement brings to First Nations and industry for partnerships.
“I would like to thank and recognize the efforts of the ministry staff, Quesnel and district for keeping the dialogue open as we move through this process, and ask that we continue our relationship this way as we move forward together,” he said.
Lhtako Dené Chief Clifford Lebrun acknowledged all the technical staff who worked on this and particularly acknowledged Jean Christie from the Lhtako Dené office.
Simpson recognized Donaldson’s leadership on moving this forward.
“I believe he fundamentally is changing the game,” he said. “An apportionment of this nature to communities, I think, is the beginning of that transition of repatriating that volume back to where it belongs, so I want to recognize his leadership on this. I want to recognize Josh Pressey (the FLNRORD District Manager for Quesnel) and his team because if the staff did not advance those options to the minister, then I think the status quo would be the potential for us where the major licensees who had rights under a normal apportionment would have been the ones who got those rights again. We’re thrilled. We know there’s a lot of work ahead of us. We have to figure out what the collaboration looks like, what the partnerships look like, but I do think the timing is perfect to give us a catalyst to become tighter as a community and to become more connected to our land base.”
Mandates are being developed to offer community forest volume and to distribute allowable annual cut volume for First Nations, according to FLNRORD. An invitation to apply for a community forest licence is anticipated to be extended to interested partnerships in spring 2020.
Once a community forest agreement, First Nations woodland licence or woodlot licence is established, the supporting Crown land and allowable annual cut are removed from the timber supply area and are not tracked in the apportionment system, according to the press release.
“What we’ve heard from communities throughout the Interior is when we went through the crisis in 2008, we should have learned some lessons and done things differently, and now here we are going through similar challenges where communities are affected, workers are affected, and people feel we didn’t learn any lessons,” Kahlon said following the announcement. “One of the lessons that was made clear by First Nations and community leaders and experts is we need to give communities more access to how their forests are managed in their communities. So what we are announcing today is not the particular details of who gets what but generically that the community here, the local First Nations and the local community of Quesnel and the Cariboo Regional District, are going to have more access to fibre so they can decide how to manage the forests, they will be able to build partnerships and generate potential revenues from those partnerships. I think this is an excellent step in the way it should be.”