The Interior forest sector is undergoing a transition because of the impacts on mid-term timber supply caused by the mountain pine beetle epidemic (MPB) and two severe wildfire seasons. Although devastating for many communities, this provides an opportunity to revisit forest management and look for ways to manage forests differently. Meaningful inclusion of First Nations in this process has the power to facilitate a climate for investment based on sustainable resource development. With a deep connection to the land and a knowledge that goes back generations, Indigenous peoples need to be key players in the transformation of the forest sector in BC, and involved in the identification of collaborative solutions to address the economic, social, and environmental challenges.
In the spring of 2019, the BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) co-hosted a series of workshops alongside the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development with Interior First Nations’ communities. Discussions helped identify key changes to forest policies and legislation needed to advance reconciliation and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the “UN Declaration”) to develop a stronger, more inclusive forest sector. The resulting report produced by the Forestry Council, First Nations as Full Partners: Recommendations to Support the Revitalization of the BC Interior Forest Sector, provides 30 actions the province can take towards fulfilling their commitment to reconciliation with First Nations as full partners. This report identifies four key areas of work.
I. Shared Governance and Land Use Planning
Changes to forest legislation, policies, and regulations are needed to increase the role First Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources. There is a need to move from consultation models to collaborative decision-making processes. First Nations emphasized the need for land management frameworks and plans that reflect their visions and management objectives for their territories. Research1 undertaken by the Forestry Council has shown that 50 per cent of Nations in BC don’t have their own land use plans (LUPs). Having their own LUPs would allow Nations to identify their values and stewardship objectives and participate in an informed way in landscape level planning.
II. Tenure Reform and Fibre Supply
Concentration and control of tenure by a few large companies is a shared concern for First Nations and many British Columbians. Working together to do more with less volume, and developing policies and practices to support increased access to fibre, and utilization through incentives for small First Nations’ tenure holders is in everyone’s best interest. Small First Nation tenure holders, as market loggers, do not control what mills will take, and don’t have the flexibility or scales of economy to address costs to move residual fibre. For First Nations to become full partners in the forest sector, they require increased access to volume and tenure opportunities to level the playing field.
III. Revenue Sharing
The forestry economy has a role to play in closing the socio-economic gap, supporting and rebuilding strong, healthy Indigenous communities. Meaningful sharing of stumpage revenues supports the modernization of government-to-government relationships, the well-being of First Nations communities, the development of governance capacity, and increases the ability of Nations to participate in the forest sector.
IV. Increased First Nations Participation in the Workforce
In 2018, the Forestry Council launched a BC First Nations Forestry Workforce Strategy (the “Workforce Strategy”) in collaboration with industry to help connect First Nations talent to forest sector opportunities. As recognized by the 2009 Working Roundtable on Forestry, a robust forest sector will require stronger and more meaningful collaboration between Nations, industry, and the Province. The Workforce Strategy paves the way for achieving sustainable and meaningful career, employment, and business outcomes for Indigenous Peoples in the BC forest sector through collaborative partnerships among forest companies, Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program (formerly Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy), and the Forestry Council.
In order to increase certainty, encourage future investments, and ensure the economic and environmental longevity of the sector for generations to come, the transformation of the forest sector must recognize First Nations as full partners and support collaborative partnerships within the industry. Only then can we find a way towards developing a stronger, more sustainable and inclusive forest sector.
You can read the full report at https://www.forestrycouncil.ca/cpages/interior-renewal.
- First Nations Land Use Plans in British Columbia, BC First Nations Forestry Council, March 2019.