A new First Nations' woodland licence demonstrates the Province's commitment to working with First Nations to increase their participation in the forest sector, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.
The Forests and Range (First Nations Woodland Licence) Statutes Act introduced today provides for a new forest tenure that is unique to First Nations.
"The new tenure is in response to requests from First Nations for an area- based tenure specifically designed for First Nations," said Bell. "Through discussions with many First Nations, we were able to shape this new tenure and also meet one of the recommendations from the Working Roundtable on Forestry."
The new First Nations' woodland licence is an area-based tenure and can include private and reserve land. The initial term of the licence will be set at 25 years. The new woodland licence will only be available to First Nations that have an interim measures agreement with government. First Nations with licences in their existing agreements will be able to convert some of them to a First Nations' woodland licence.
The woodland licence is unique, since it would provide exclusive right to harvest timber on Crown land, the right to harvest, manage and charge fees for botanical forest products, practice Aboriginal stewardship and protect traditional use practices.
As well, through amendments to the Range Act, government can also award hay-cutting licences or grazing licences to First Nations with signed interim measures agreements.
"Partnership and sustainability are essential to our relations with First Nations and with the forest industry," said George Abbott, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. "By expanding the participation of First Nations in the forest sector, we are creating economic opportunities that will benefit First Nations and all British Columbians."
In March 2009, the Working Roundtable on Forestry released 29 recommendations for "a vibrant, sustainable, globally competitive forest industry that provides enormous benefits for current and future generations and for strong communities." The report contained five recommendations directed to making First Nations full partners in forestry.
Since September 2002, the Province has signed forestry agreements with 168 First Nations providing $243 million in revenue-sharing and providing access to 44 million cubic metres of timber.
First Nations' woodland licence holders will be required to pay stumpage, to prepare a management plan and submit an operational plan to government for approval to ensure the environmental values and standards required by the Forest and Range Practices Act are upheld.
The act will come in force through regulation. A copy of the Act, as introduced in the B.C. legislature during first reading, is available online at www.leg.bc.ca/39th2nd/1st_read/index.htm