The Tsq'escenemc/Canim Lake Band (CLB) is making history as the second community to successfully obtain a First Nations Woodlands licence in British Columbia.
In a signing ceremony on Jan. 24, officials and representatives of the province and the band solidified a woodland agreement, which the band has been pursuing for decades.
This licence will allow the band to harvest up to 20,000 cubic metres of timber each year – about 5,000 logging truck loads – from about 20,000 hectares of Crown land on an initial term of 25 years, which can then be renewed indefinitely.
CLB Chief Mike Archie says the new licence will help the band grow its existing forestry operation, as well as providing long-term economic and employment opportunities.
“The [band] is committed to self-sufficiency through education, economic development, social development and effective management of our lands and resources.”
CLB forester John Kalmokoff says the tenure size is equivalent to the 100 Mile House Community Forest licence held by the municipality's 100 Mile Development Corporation.
“This puts the [band] on an equal footing with the community of 100 Mile House.”
To put this in perspective, Kalmokoff notes the band's original woodlot licence had an allowable annual cut of about 1,500 cubic metres.
“They wanted a large-sized, area-based tenure for a long time, but so did everybody else.”
However, the band has demonstrated success in managing that woodlot since 1980, the forester explains.
Other small, non-replaceable forest licences were also held since then, which Kalmokoff adds were also handled well by the band, providing a model for First Nation forestry practices.
“The reason [CLB] is one of the leaders and got this licence before [almost] anyone else is because of their demonstrated track record in forestry. They have proven they can do it.”
He notes the band has maintained a registered professional forester (RPF), such as himself, on staff for three decades.
“They've made a long-term commitment to being in the forest industry.”
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) Minister Steve Thomson says the licence gives CLB the long-term stability it needs to build a sustainable business and to provide effective stewardship.
“The Tsq,escenemc have a great track record when it comes to managing forestry operations.”
Like other forestry licences, it gives the band exclusive rights to harvest timber on Crown land, but can also apply to private land, and in this case, First Nations reserve land.
The only other First Nations woodlands licence agreement was signed with FLNRO more than a year ago by Huu-ay-aht First Nation of Vancouver Island.
Kalmokoff has worked as the local band's forester for the past five years, and says he is pleased to see it obtain a more equitable share in local forest tenures.
“It makes Canim Lake Band an important tenure holder, and it also gives them stewardship over an important part of their territory.
“Rather than always being on the sideline, we're not on the bench, we are a player now.”