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B.C. begins forest management overhaul to increase Indigenous participation

Changes to B.C.’s forest management laws will make sure the province is “landlord of the forests again,” replacing industry-led harvesting plans, Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said Wednesday.

Conroy introduced amendments Oct. 20 designed to reverse the B.C. Liberal government’s “results-based” forest practices and return the government-directed management of road-building and logging. The changes also aim to meet Premier John Horgan’s target of increasing the Indigenous share of timber harvesting to 10 per cent, opening up Crown forest opportunities to communities and Indigenous nations.

Conroy repeated her commitment to move ahead with more old-growth logging deferral areas as part of the legislative overhaul.

“Engagements with rights and title holders on old growth are taking place now, and we expect to announce additional deferrals soon,” she said.

The ministry is introducing 10-year landscape plans to allow the chief forester to set tree planting standards for harvest areas and after large wildfires, creating wild land buffer zones between communities and forests. The plans will be made public so communities can see what is coming.

Chief Troy Baptiste of the ?Estilagh First Nation, one of the Tsilhqot’in Nation communities, has been part of a pilot project for landscape planning in the Quesnel timber supply area. He said the landscape plans are a chance to restore and maintain the health of forests and waterways.

“Unfortunately, climate change, forest fires and over-harvesting have put the health of these at risk,” Baptiste said.

RELATED: Canfor buy-back a template for redistribution, Horgan says

RELATED: B.C. first nations leaders blast rushed forest consultations

Conroy said the plans will put the government “back in the driver’s seat” along with Indigenous rights holders, particularly for building access roads.

“Right now government has no control over where those roads or built, how they are maintained or what happens to them,” Conroy said. “A perfect example of what’s happened in the past is there were two harvesting areas, and there were two roads built parallel to each other.”

Horgan has told forest industry leaders his government will redistribute large Crown forest tenures, by reassigning them as they come up for renewal and in some cases buying them back. The first example of a buy-back was a $2.5 million payment from the province to the Simpcw First Nation to buy a share of cutting rights in the Clearwater area being sold by Canfor Corp. to Interfor after Canfor closed its Vavenby sawmill in 2019.


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Tom Fletcher

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