March 26, 2003 Ministry of Forests


Treaties with First Nations to clarify issues of aboriginal rights and title in Canada were not negotiated for most of British Columbia.

As a result, many questions of who has rights to what land in B.C. – and who has the rights to the timber on it – remain unresolved. Parties are turning to the courts to settle their differences, which consumes considerable time, money and energy, leaving forest companies wary of investing here.

Government is committed to revitalizing the treaty process in B.C. Currently 42 treaty tables are in progress in the province, involving 120 of B.C.’s 198 First Nations. Nonetheless, this process will take time.

Although First Nations comprise about eight per cent of B.C.’s rural population, they hold only about three per cent of the province’s forest tenure. Most of that is in the form of short-term, non-replaceable licences that will expire over the next few years.

Government made New Era commitments to increase First Nations’ participation in the economy through negotiated interim-measures agreements. Last year, the government passed legislation authorizing direct awards – tenure allocated without competition – to First Nations. Since then, seven agreements have been signed, providing First Nations with rights to 1.1 million cubic metres of timber over a number of years.

As part of the forestry revitalization plan, more timber will be made available to First Nations through direct awards. The share of the province’s allowable annual cut available to First Nations will be more than doubled, from about three to eight per cent, roughly equivalent to the proportion of First Nations people in the rural population.

Additionally, for the first time, government will share forest revenue with First Nations. As a result, government will be able to expand the number of agreements to include any First Nation with an unresolved land claim and an interest in forestry.

The Ministry of Forests expects to start negotiating new accommodation agreements soon, following further consultation with First Nations on program design.

Forest revenue sharing and forest tenures will work towards accommodating interests First Nations have on the land base, increasing certainty in the province’s heartlands. This should help to improve forest sector stability by generating investment and creating jobs for all British Columbians.

Forest revenue sharing – Government has allocated $15 million for this year’s budget, $30 million in 2004-05, and $50 million in 2005-06. These increases reflect the fact that it will take some time to negotiate accommodation agreements with First Nations.

Forestry tenures – Government will redistribute some of the provincial allowable annual cut to expand opportunities for small entrepreneurs and First Nations. Government is proposing to allocate up to eight per cent, or about 5.5 million cubic metres, of the province’s total allowable annual cut to First Nations. This would be roughly equivalent to the proportion of First Nations people in the rural population.

First Nations will be subject to the same laws and policies as other tenure holders, and they will pay the same fees, including stumpage. The tenures will be non-transferable. Like other licensees, First Nations will have the option of logging timber for their own use, selling it to other processors, or working to develop and sell it in partnership with others in the forest sector.

Additionally, the government’s Economic Measures Fund is creating new opportunities for First Nations’ participation in the forest sector and other parts of the economy, involving B.C. First Nations inside and outside the treaty process.

For legal, social and economic reasons, First Nations should be offered the opportunity to increase their participation in British Columbia’s forest economy. By entering into agreements that involve revenue sharing and forestry tenures, government is opening up access to timber for more players, and is pursuing a New Era of reconciliation with First Nations.



Media contact:

Mike Hogan
Communications Director
250 387-8486