Interior First Nations Awarded Forest Licenses

By Lloyd Dolha

As part of the “aggressive policy changes” recently announced by BC Forests Minister Mike de jong, the Lheidli Tenneh and the Saik’uz First Nations were awarded forest licenses for 600,000 cubic metres of timber on March 3, 2003.

“As committed in the throne speech, our government is working to create new opportunities for First Nations that wish to help revitalize the forest industry,” said de jong. “Partnerships with First Nations will help bring certainty to the land base, which helps generate more opportunities and investment.”

Under the interim measures agreement, the Lhiedli Tenneh First Nation of Prince George will receive a forest license for 150,000 cubic metres of timber over three years with the possibility of being extended for an additional two years. The agreement also allows the minister to award a community forest pilot agreement once Canada, BC and the Lhiedli Tenneh reach and approve an agreement-in-principle under the BC treaty process.

“The timber from this non-replaceable license will supply much needed fibre for our value-added facility and will bring economic benefits to our people and community,” said Lhiedli Tenneh chief Barrie Seymour. “We’re working towards becoming full participants in BC’s forest economy and sharing in the province’s resources and wealth.”

In a separate agreement, the Saik’uz First Nation will receive a non-replaceable forest license for 450,000 cubic metres of timber over three years with the possibility of being extended two more years.

“This agreement will stimulate our economy by creating small business opportunities for our members, generating revenues for future business development and furthering educational and social development initiatives for the betterment of our people,” said Chief Allison Johnny of the Saik’uz First Nation. “We’re encouraged that cooperation with government and industry will result in further accords that will bring true equality to our people.”

Both forest licenses are for beetle-killed timber in the Prince George timber supply area. In May 2002, the chief forester increased the allowable annual cut by 2.9 million cubic metres to address the mountain pine beetle infestation.

The Lhiedli Tenneh and the Saikuz First Nations must submit detailed business plans outlining how the forest licenses will be managed, including meeting silvaculture and reforestation obligations.