The B.C. government’s plan to preserve ancient and at-risk forest ecosystems has reached two thirds of its goal, gaining approval of Indigenous communities for proposed protected areas and logging plans.
The 1.7 million hectares now negotiated for protection exceeds the protected areas within the coastal region now known as the Great Bear Rainforest, Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said at an event to update progress on Friday. Among those signing on is the Canim Lake Indian Band in the Central Interior, whose representative described his people’s perspective on a century of industrial logging and ranching.
Canim Lake Councillor Carl Archie said it’s “ironic that the region is named after caribou” that were 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 April 1. “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.”
Like many of the more than 200 Indigenous groups being consulted on forest preservation, Canim Lake has its own logging operations. Archie said his elected council now a forest stewardship plan of its own, and has “led the charge” to increase the share of annual allowable cut reserved for Indigenous title holders. Canim Lake has accepted the B.C. government’s proposed deferral areas, but reserved the right to change the designated areas in the future.
Archie endorsed Conroy’s move toward Indigenous-led land use planning that considers 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.
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.