The Nak’azdli Whut’en and two major lumber producers who harvest timber in the First Nation’s traditional territory near Fort St. James signed a forest management agreements Friday afternoon.
The two separate deals between the people of the Nak’azdli Whut’en, Carrier Lumber and Dunkley Lumber establish the framework for a collaborative planning process that will protect and preserve vulnerable wildlife populations and ensure sustainable harvesting of forests that for more than 20 years were ravaged by the mountain pine beetle.
“Our territories have faced serious challenges over the past 20 years, and agreements like this one are starting to set things right. They also bring us back to our historic and rightful role as decision-makers on our territories,” said Nak’azdli Whut’en chief Aileen Prince, in a prepared statement.
“This agreement (with Carrier) builds a solid relationship between Nak’azdli and Carrier Lumber that will ensure our territories are respected, and that wildlife has a chance to come back. Carrier is demonstrating a commitment to reconciliation by respecting our role as decision-makers in our own territories.”
As part of the agreement, Carrier Lumber will help the First Nation manage its own forest licences.
“Nak’azdli Whut’en already understands the forest industry inside and out, with many members working in the business,” said Carrier Lumber woodlands manager Jason Gordon. “This agreement will bring Carrier’s decades of experience to Nak’azdli, and ensure that their forest licenses are being managed to both economic benefit and for land stewardship.”
Beetle infestations and a changing climate that leaves forests more susceptible to insect attacks and wildfires have led to conditions that resulted in a 75 per cent drop in moose populations in some parts of the Nak’azdli Whut’en territory.
“Nak’azdli is proud to be securing the future of our territories through this agreement with Dunkley Lumber,” said Prince. “Our territories have faced serious challenges over the past 20 years, and agreements like this one are starting to set things right. They also bring us back to our historic and rightful role as decision-makers on our territories.”.
The Nak’azdli Whut’en Development Corporation is heavily involved in forest-related industries in the region, including the 40 megawatt BioNorth Energy power generating facility in Fort St. James, which converts wood waste to electricity. The arrangements announced Friday will strengthen that connection to the two large companies to ensure forest operations remain viable as major employers for the people in Fort St. James region.
“Dunkley Lumber is signing this agreement today to work together with Nak’azdli on land stewardship objectives in Nak’azdli’s traditional territory,” said Dunkley Lumber vice-president Dyon Armstrong. “The agreement protects identified values while at the same time providing economic opportunities to Nak’azdli and their membership.”