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

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read