Nearly 2,500 hectares of ancient old-growth forest harvest will be deferred for two years in a recent agreement.
The agreement was reached between Western Forest Products Inc. (Western) and the Na̲nwaḵolas Council – which consists of the Tlowitsis, K’omoks, Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai First Nations.
The agreement covers 100 per cent of ancient and remnant trees in 1,068 hectares identified by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel (TAP), in Tree Farm Licence 39-2 on central Vancouver Island.
Another 1,506 hectares of priority large and ancient forests have been deferred through other initiatives including the Large Cultural Cedar Protocol. It was originally deferred in 2020.
Na̲nwaḵolas Council President Dallas Smith says the agreement will prioritize some of the rarest and oldest forests in the area.
“We have done a lot of work to put us in a position to actively engage Western and others around our important cultural and ecological values while balancing the socioeconomic needs of our communities and the surrounding region,” said Smith.
The deferrals are defined as a strategy to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss while First Nations, the province and other partners work to create sustainable forest management, according to the province.
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Katrine Conroy says the agreement is necessary for planning the future of old-growth forests.
“I want to recognize the member Nations of the Na̲nwaḵolas Council and Western for working together to defer harvest of at-risk old-growth forests,” said Conroy. “Indigenous and industry partnerships like this are key to advancing both sustainable management of our forests and reconciliation with rights and title holders.”
Western’s Vice President of partnership and sustainability Shannon Janzen says the company is looking forward to expanding its relationship with the Council and balance environmental, social and economic objectives.
$19-million in funding is being made available by the province to support workers, communities and First Nations to offset economic impacts that might happen as old-growth forest management is examined.