By: The Working Forest Staff
VICTORIA, CTV NEWS — A group of First Nations say they have reached an agreement to defer old-growth logging in parts of southwestern Vancouver Island for the next two years.
The Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht First Nations say they informed the B.C. government on Saturday of their plan to hold off on old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas while the nations develop long-term resource stewardship plans.
“For more than 150 years they have watched as others decided what was best for their lands, water, and people,” said the Huu-ay-aht First Nation in a statement Monday. “This declaration brings this practice to an immediate end.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan acknowledged the province had received the deferral notice Monday. The government has not yet indicated whether or not it will endorse the decision.
“We understand the request must be addressed expeditiously, and we will ensure a prompt response,” said Horgan in a statement Monday afternoon.
“Our government is committed to reconciliation. True reconciliation means meaningful partnerships,” Horgan added. “I know the three nations are ready to enter into these discussions in a spirit of good faith, and with a goal of achieving a mutually satisfactory resolution. Our government is as well.”
Protesters have been blockading forestry roads in the region since August, preventing forestry company Teal-Jones from accessing the area to harvest trees. In April, the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to Teal-Jones to have the blockades removed.
Teal-Jones told CTV News on Monday that it will adhere to the First Nations’ decision to defer logging in the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran regions.
“We will abide by the declaration issued today, and look forward to engaging with the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations as they develop Integrated Resource Forest Stewardship Plans,” the company said in a statement.
“Teal-Jones acknowledges the ancestral territories of all First Nations on which we operate and is committed to reconciliation,” the company added.
Pacheedaht First Nation Chief Councillor Jeff Jones said the three nations “look forward to building a future based on respectful nation-to-nation relationships with other governments that are informed by Indigenous history, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous rights, and Indigenous priorities.”
“We ask that all peoples both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learn and move forward together and that by working together we can realize a future that is fair, just, and equitable,” Jones added.
The First Nations say the deferral applies to new road construction in the Fairy Creek area, which will cease immediately, however some maintenance and deactivation work may continue for safety and environmental reasons.
The nations say forestry operations in other parts of their territories will continue without disruption and they are asking protesters not to interfere with these approved operations.
The protesters said the announcement from the Indigenous leaders is “far short of what we need” in a statement Monday on Twitter.
“We have yet to see the exact maps but regardless it will allow for continued industrial logging of old-growth forest across southern Vancouver Island,” according to the Fairy Creek Blockade account.
Since the RCMP began enforcing the injunction against the blockades in late May, more than 165 people have been arrested, mostly for obstruction and breaching the injunction.
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