The B.C. cabinet has approved the request of three Vancouver Island Indigenous communities to defer old-growth logging on about 2,000 hectares of old-growth forest that has been a target of protests since last year.
Cabinet made the change at its June 9 meeting, Premier John Horgan told reporters Wednesday at the B.C. legislature. It includes a portion of the Central Walbran Valley as well as the Fairy Creek watershed where protesters continue to defy a court order to protect legal logging activities by Surrey-based Teal Jones Group.
Horgan said logging will not be halted in the region, where the affected Indigenous groups have second-growth harvesting, and he expects minimal effect on employment as a result of Wednesday’s decision.
The province released maps of the new deferral areas, which are added to the 200,000 hectares of old-growth deferral areas that were announced in September 2020. Horgan appealed to people continuing to block roads and interfere with logging to stand down and give the province time to take a new direction on logging with Indigenous title holders.
“These are monumental steps,” Horgan said. “This is not your grandparents’ forest industry. It will be your grandchildren’s forestry if we manage it correctly.”
The southwest Island-based Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations signed the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration on Friday, June 4, to take back power over their traditional territories. On Saturday, they formally told the provincial government to defer old-growth logging in those areas while the First Nations prepare their own plans for stewardship of their traditional territories.
“We have made a commitment to our people to manage the resources on our ḥahahuułi the way our ancestors did – guided by our sacred principles of ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one),” explained Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters), Ditidaht Chabut Satiixub (Hereditary Chief Paul Tate), and Pacheedaht’s Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones.