For Immediate Release
September 12, 2005
Secwepemc Territory/Chase, B.C. - Because the Adams Lake Indian Band maintains a fully staffed Natural Resources Department, it’s able to measure the impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle’s presence in their territory by monitoring the Kamloops B.C. timber sales office and witnessing the startling jump in the region’s annual allowable cut.
“By our estimate, the epidemic has already resulted in an uplift of some million plus cubic metres in the Kamloops timber supply area alone, which was 2.5 million,” said Chief Ronnie Jules.
According to the Chief, the beetle epidemic can be compared to the burnt-wood situation in the region, where more wood fibre became available as a result of the 2003 forest fires. That situation resulted in a short-term deal for the Band, which owns a small community-based sawmill that allows them to process their own wood.
“For us, that short-term increase in wood led to more contracting companies forming with a larger inventory of equipment running, and an increased capacity to manage fibre. But our longer term goal is a tenure that sustains our community’s on-going development, similar to what other communities in this area enjoy.”
But immediately challenging the Band’s economic goals is the knowledge of being left behind in the province’s rush to allocate the ‘bug-wood.’
“Of that recent million plus in uplift, it’s already been awarded to the major licensees,” said Chief Jules. “So for us, we’re already being left behind. And while we’ve heard there’s wood being set aside for First Nations, the question is will it be enough?”
On that issue, Band Councillor Nelson Leon explained the Band’s position toward accessing wood. “We don’t agree with the current Forest and Range Agreements program, so we’d look at direct awards or licenses under a regular program or some other measure similar to the burnt-wood situation – so long as it doesn’t impede our Aboriginal rights and title.”
Chief Jules said First Nations must seek longer term solutions in addition to short-term opportunities. For instance, he said First Nations could benefit from having export licenses to export raw logs and lumber.
Chief Jules is concerned about the cultural and ecological impacts of the epidemic. “We think unrestricted wood extraction near sensitive wildlife habitat will affect our ability to harvest game. We are also concerned that fish habitat will be impacted even if logging doesn’t occur in riparian zones. Habitat for medicine plants and food gathering are also at risk. Our traditional way of life and diet is at risk because of this epidemic.”
Because of the risk that wood harvesting imposes on First Nations, with or without a beetle epidemic driving it, Chief Jules wants First Nations involved in meaningful land-use planning and decisions.
He advised, “planning means many things to many people, so we need to be clear on what it is we want. Furthermore, it takes internal capacity to participate in planning. So that needs to be addressed, as well.”
He is however concerned in regards to the lack of First Nations involvement in the initial planning process.
The Band will represented at the emergency forum in Prince George on September 19-20, where the immediate and long-term impacts of the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic on B.C. First Nations will be addressed. The forum is being co-hosted by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and First Nations Leadership Council of BC, which is composed of the executives of the First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the BC Assembly of First Nations.
Shawn Atleo, BC Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said “the forum will result in a much needed action plan for First Nations as we move forward with the vision set out in the New Relationship document, especially on shared forestry and land use decisions.”
"This coming together of our communities will enable us to address the challenges of the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic from environmental, ecological, social, cultural and economic perspectives, as well as assist us to identify economic opportunities now and into the future,” said Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
“The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic creates a set of incredibly large and difficult challenges for all in the impacted areas. First Nations will need to work with the federal and provincial governments and coordinate their efforts with municipalities to meet these challenges head on,” said Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit Task Group.
For further comment from the Adams Lake Indian Band, contact Councillor Nelson Leon at 250-679-8841. For further comment on the BC First Nations & The Mountain Pine Beetle: Developing a Strategy and Action Plan Forum see below. For additional information on the forum, visit www.cstc.bc.ca/mpb/.
UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.