Amidst uncertain times for B.C.’s forestry sector as a whole, the provincial government has made a slew of announcements aimed at protecting old growth and collaborating with First Nations to “better care” for the province’s forests. The announcement of the new eight point plan is $25 million in funding for new Forest Landscape Planning (FLP) tables, which the province said will drive improved management of old-growth forests, while keeping community priorities and incorporating local knowledge.
The eight new regional FLP tables will include the participation of approximately 50 B.C. First Nations, who requested more in-depth discussions and collaboration around the issue of old-growth forests. The tables will rule out certain areas for the harvesting of old-growth forests, and provide more certainty about the areas where sustainable cutting can occur. The changes come as part of an overall shift in B.C.’s forestry policies.
“The BC First Nations Forestry Council is looking forward to continuing working with the Province to modernize forest policy in B.C.,” said Lennard Joe, CEO of the First Nations Forestry Council and Merritt resident.
“The forestry council will continue to support Nations in efforts to increase their role in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources. The Province’s commitment to continue implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review and to increase Forest Landscape Planning opportunities for First Nations are both vital to increasing the participation of First Nations in the forest sector as full partners.”
The province also announced it is doubling the new BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund to $180 million and expanding eligibility provincewide. The new fund will support industrial and manufacturing projects, such as the purchasing of new equipment, allowing mills to process smaller-diameter trees and manufacture other types of wood products. An additional $10 million in a silviculture innovation program fund and $2.4 million provided to the First Nations Forestry Council to co-develop new forestry policy were also announced by the provincial government.
Despite the new support and funding, Aspen Planers in Merritt continues to operate on imported logs after a nearly two month closure, and its ownership has said it could close again by the end of February if new cutting permits aren’t issued. Aspen Planers employees, along with local forestry contractors and employees, recently began protests at the Ministry of Forests’ Merritt office.
“As we work to protect more old growth, we know we need to accelerate our efforts to build a stronger, more innovative forestry industry that better shares the benefits with workers and communities. Forestry is a foundation of B.C.’s economy,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests.
“That’s why we are doubling provincial investments to help mills retrofit to get off old-growth logs and manufacture more high-value wood products right here in B.C., so we create more jobs from every tree.”
Ralston’s office has declined multiple requests for interviews on the subject of forestry in the Nicola Valley and possible concerns by local First Nations on the cutting permit approval process in the area, opting to provide statements instead. The Ministry of Forests has told the Herald it is working with Aspen Planers, First Nations, and local governments on solutions to concerns around cutting permits. The Ministry also noted that they are engaging local communities on an approach to forestry management that they expect will lead to collaborative decisions for the region.
For more information on the provincial government’s new announcement, including the full details of their new plan, visit news.gov.bc.ca/28240.