Takla taking on BC Timber Sales over logging licence

The Takla First Nation is taking B.C. Timber Sales to court, alleging the band was not property consulted before it gave a Vanderhoof-based logging contractor the go-ahead to carry out operations on its traditional territory.

According to a petition filed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, BCTS granted DNT Contracting Ltd. a licence in January 2015 to harvest timber without anyone "first speaking with or receiving correspondence from Takla or its members."

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It said BCTS appears to have sent the consultation package to the band in March 2012, at a time when it was going through "significant financial management issues caused by previous Takla administrations."

An audit in 2011-12 led to the federal government imposing a management action plan on the band in June 2014, according to the filing.

The financial trouble had limited Takla's capacity to respond to requests for consultation. "In that regard, BCTS did not provide Takla with any capacity funding to enable Takla to engage with it in relation to the licence," the band says in the filing.

Further, the band said that since spring 2015, Takla has tried to raise its concerns about the impact the licence will cause on its aboriginal title, rights and interests. While meetings have been held, BCTS "has thus far refused to meaningfully consult with Takla" on the basis that the licence has been issued and it cannot go backwards.

Moreover, in September, a BCTS manager extended the licence for another year "without notifying Takla of his intention to do so."

The band says about half the trees to be harvested by DNT are old growth and are valued "both in a spiritual sense and also as resources that are priceless to their very being." It also describes the area as critical habitat to moose and caribou and says it's home to a burial site.

The move was the latest in a series of legal maneuvers that began Sept. 23 when DNT filed notices seeking injunctions against blockades that had been established to stop the work. On Tuesday - the day after Takla had filed its petition - a judge issued the injunction, court records indicate.

According to DNT's filings, in July 2015, employees encountered a blockade in the near the junction of the Driftwood and Fall-Tsayta forest services roads, and were told to cease operations within a 50-kilometre radius of a burial site located on Fall-Tsayta.

DNT told the blockaders they were responsible for $1 million in stumpage whether it was harvested but were rebuffed nonetheless, according to the filing, and the firm pulled out its equipment.

After several unsuccessful attempts this past spring to talk to Takla leaders about the issue, DNT was back at the site on Sept. 7 and two days later the blockade was reinstated at the same location.

At one point, blockade leader Dolly Abraham indicated they would probably negotiate if a revenue sharing agreement was reached and at another she told DNT they were on reserve land but did not produce a map showing this was so, according to the filing.

On Sept. 19, DNT presented a copy of a written notice saying the company intended to seek a court injunction.

Over the combined time DNT was able to operate at the site, it had harvested about 21,600 cubic metres but had hauled and delivered only 4,600 of that total and about 42,700 cubic metres remained standing.

The band's main community is on the east shore of Takla Lake, 320 kilometres north of Prince George. It claims 27,250 square kilometres between the Skeena and Rocky Mountains as its traditional territory. It has 816 registered members of which 200 live on reserve, according to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada figures.

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