Les Squamish Nation of B.C are demanding an immediate suspension on the logging of old–growth forests in B.C. On June 10th, the Nation asked the B.C. government for a two year deferment while they develop their own sustainability plan for the region. The Nation warned that government logging activities will put roughly 78,000 hectares of the Nation’s old–growth forest at risk.
Leader of the B.C. Green party, Sonia Furstenau is joining the Squamish Nation in pressing the government to halt old–growth logging on traditional Squamish territories.
Furstenau released the following statement in a Communiqué de presse on Thursday regarding the government’s response to Squamish demands.
“The Premier’s response to these demands by the Squamish Nation will show how committed this government truly is to their stated promises to work with First Nations in determining the future of their lands and resources,” Furstenau said. “Anything other than a positive response will show that this government is simply using the language of reconciliation when it suits them.”
Khelsilem, a councillor for the Squamish Nation council in North Vancouver tweeted on Thursday that he hopes the Squamish Nation will be involved in higher level decision-making matters of logging on old–growth forests.
Government protection of old growth forests
En September 2020, the B.C. government released its Old–Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) titled “A New Future for Old Forests“. In the report, the province established a new comprehensive approach to protecting old–growth forests. The report calls for building a government-to-government relationship with First Nations by including them in the decision-making process.
Despite the ambitious targets the report proposes, the province has yet to take any meaningful action to implement changes.
The Squamish Nation has identified at least 20 cut blocks within its territory where the B.C. government has proposed old–growth logging activities in the next five years. Moreover, 56 percent of the Squamish territory’s old–growth remains unprotected by the province. The Nation has been responsible for conserving and protecting the forest area that houses many intact ecosystems.
Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, explained in a press release that halting forest logging is an important part of reconciliation for the Indigenous community.
“This is an opportunity for this government to fulfill their stated promises to re-imagine the forest sector and support meaningful reconciliation” Olsen said. “If the Premier is sincere in his promises to grant deferrals when requested by First Nations, we will see an immediate positive response to Squamish Nation’s assertion of their rights, as well as to the many other nations who have been calling for an end to old growth logging in their territories and have so far been ignored.”
The Squamish Nation’s response to old growth logging
The Squamish Nation’s 2001 Xay Temixw Land Use Plan was created in consultation with the Squamish people, including elders and cultural knowledge keepers. This plan expresses the importance of protecting old growth forests and the need for the Nation to be involved in the economic opportunities of harvesting. The Nation plans to review and update the Xay Temixw Land Use Plan with consideration to recent legislative and case law changes that recognize Indigenous title and rights.
Furstenau’s pétition to save the last old–growth forests in B.C. has garnered over 38,000 signatures. In her petition, Furstenau demands Premier John Horgan to stay true to the promises outlined in the September 2020 report.
Furstenau is urging the government to work with Indigenous communities by providing conservation funding for Indigenous-led protected areas. She is pressing the government to take back timber harvesting rights from forestry companies with old growth tenures. Furstenau warns that the government must take immediate action to protect old–growth forests before it is too late.