The Canim Lake Band continues to work with the B.C. government to ensure its values are incorporated into the modern forestry industry.
Canim Lake Coun. Carl Archie was in Victoria last week to attend the announcement of additional old-growth deferrals by Forests Minister Katrine Conroy, as part of B.C.’s old-growth preservation strategy.
The announcement was an update to negotiations underway with 200 indigenous groups across the province to create new areas of protection for old-growth forests.
Canim Lake has accepted the government’s proposed old deferral areas but reserved the right to change the designated areas in the future.
Archie said this could occur if logging is a matter of forest health, such as removing beetle-killed trees.
He noted Canim Lake’s key interest area includ in the proposal was first suggested over a decade ago by Elders and community members of the band.
It represents about three per cent of their territory and would mean about 20 percent of 100 Mile House’s annual allowable cut would come under Canim Lake Band’s tenure.
However, Archie said they do not know when this agreement will become official.
“We’ve been waiting for years and continue to be told it’s coming shortly but a final decision hasn’t been made yet,” Archie said. “The Canim Lake Band strongly believes in local ownership, local benefits, local jobs and local investments.”
Until the protected area’s status becomes official, Archie said the band intends to continue to work with local foresters and businesses to ensure their rights and interests are respected.
These interests include protecting the habitat of the moose and caribou populations, whose numbers have declined substantially due to past logging practices.
During the announcement, Archie said it’s ironic the Cariboo region bears the name of the animals – caribou – that once served as his people’s traditional main food source.
“There were vast herds and the Canim Lake people protected these herds with our blood and lives,” Archie said. “Though they once sustained our people from time immemorial, they now are extirpated. Where there were vast herds numbering in the thousands, as far as the eye could see, they now hover near 100 animals in the Wells Gray Park.”
He endorsed Conroy’s move toward Indigenous-led land use planning that considers the cumulative impacts of roads and logging.
“Our caribou rely on old-growth forests for their very existence, and it’s our responsibility to bring them back,” he said.
Archie said his elected council now has a forest stewardship plan of its own, approved last summer, which would change local tree rotation periods from 60 to 80 years to at least 100 years. This, combined with protecting existing old-growth, will create habitat connectivity for wildlife such as the caribou.
Implementation of B.C.’s old-growth preservation strategy is shifting to a new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, as the province regains control over decisions such as where resource roads can be built.
The old growth strategy has a target of 2023 to extend protection for up to 2.6 million hectares of forest identified as at risk of permanent habitat loss.
With files from Tom Fletcher