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Natives heavily involved in Liberals' ambitious coastal forestry controls

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    Natives heavily involved in Liberals ambitious coastal forestry controls Vaughn Palmer Vancouver Sun Wednesday, August 01, 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2007
      Natives heavily involved in Liberals' ambitious coastal forestry controls

      Vaughn Palmer
      Vancouver Sun

      Wednesday, August 01, 2007

      VICTORIA - Lands Minister Pat Bell summoned reporters to his Victoria office Tuesday to announce the next step forward in forest management in B.C.

      "Ecosystem-based management," is the name. Bell signed a ministerial order imposing the ambitious new objectives on major forest operators on the south-central coast.

      The affected area stretches from opposite Port Hardy northward to Bella Coola, some two million hectares in all.

      Or "three and a half Prince Edward Islands," for those who, like the minister, prefer to measure progress in ecosystem management in equivalents of Canada's smallest province.

      The latest order follows on last year's landmark Coastal Land-Use Decision, itself the result of several years negotiations involving the province, coastal communities and some high-powered environmentalists.

      But where that announcement laid out broad preservationist goals for what environmentalists persist in calling the Great Bear Rainforest, this one takes things down to the finer detail of logging and land use plans for the south-central part of the region.

      The order -- a dozen pages of objectives, plus five schedules -- covers protection of riparian zones, flood plains, fisheries watersheds, forested swamps, upland streams and so forth. There are also procedures for protecting a red list of 32 plant communities that are considered to be "rare or threatened," and a blue list of 44 that are of "special concern."

      One gap remains. Bell has until the end of September to define the areas governed by new rules for protecting "sensitive grizzly bear habitat."

      Later in the fall, the province will begin laying out similar rules for the remainder of the coast, another 4.5 million hectares or eight additional P.E.I.s.

      Apart from making logging subject to environmental considerations, the ministerial order also makes extensive recognition of the interests of first nations.

      Of course, there's no getting anywhere in land use planning and resource management in B.C. without involving natives.

      Court decisions compel governments to consult affected natives meaningfully and accommodate their interests in any significant decisions involving their traditional territories.

      But the Liberals, with their much-touted new relationship, are increasingly keen to involve natives in an upfront way.

      Bell shared the platform at Tuesday's press conference with native leader Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council of seven coastal first nations.

      Smith was a key figure in the development of the coastal land use plan and the detailed objectives for managing forestry on the south-central coast.

      His role is readily apparent from the first two objectives of the resulting ministerial order, both geared to first nations.

      One obliges forest managers to "maintain traditional forest resources in a manner that supports first nations' food, social and ceremonial use of the forest."

      The other says they need to "protect traditional heritage features" such as "archeological and historical artifacts, sites and locations that are important to the cultural practices, knowledge and heritage of a first nation."

      The best known heritage consideration is probably the "culturally modified tree," or CMT -- those that have been marked or identified in some way for a recognized cultural purpose. The new rules offer additional protection to forest stands where "more than 10 CMTs are all found within one tree length of each other."

      Plus the ministerial order extends another kind of protection to "monumental cedars," those used by natives for totem poles and ceremonial canoes.

      The objective being to "maintain a sufficient volume and quantity of monumental cedar to support ... present and future cultural use."

      The working definition covers western red and yellow cedars a metre in diametre or more. Given that it takes 180 to 230 years to grow trees to those dimensions, the stock is not easily replenished.

      How many monumental trees are there? How many need to be protected?

      Smith says native leaders are reluctant to be pinned down on a number for protected trees. Their elders fear any limit would open up pressures to log monumental cedars that were not protected.

      But at Smith's urging, the natives have come up with an apt way to commemorate the coastal land use decision and follow-up agreements.

      Last month, he and Bell attended at a blessing ceremony near Port Hardy for a giant, two-metres-thick-at-the-base cedar.

      Native carvers have since begun turning it into a monument of another kind -- a 12-metre ocean-going canoe. The plan calls for them to finish the fine detail here in the provincial capital, later this year or early next.

      Symbolic, that.

      "If we are not paddling together, we will not get anywhere," Smith said, underscoring the inescapable reality of land-use planning and resource management in modern-times B.C.


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