Sunday April 20, 2014

Interfor, Skeetchestn sign deal on training, education and cultural benefits

The Skeetchestn Indian Band and Interfor signed an impact benefits agreement Monday that provides training, education and cultural benefits for the band and more lumber for the company.

Band natural resources manager Mike Anderson said the deal has been in the works for a year.

While some aspects of the agreement are confidential, he did explain it will allow the band’s resources to be inventoried and looked after.

That means such things as the 150 plants that are used for medicine, food or spiritual purposes will be catalogued and looked after.

Wildlife paths and riparian areas will also be noted and protected.

And band members will have education and training opportunities.

“We’d like to get more involved in the forest industry as time goes on here. But it takes time and money to do that,” he said.

“This is going to be of benefit to the habitat, the environment and the territory on behalf of all citizens of B.C., really, by protecting the habitat a certain amount and protecting the riparian areas. And by inventorying the medicine plants.”

For the Skeetchestn band, the heart of their culture is the fishery. Fish stocks have been depleting, in part due to the loss of riparian habitat, said Anderson.

The deal allows them to inventory it all and then keep track of impacts in future.

“This is stuff we’ve been working on for at least 15 years and this is the first company that’s come to the table and anted up to give us what we’ve been asking for,” he said.

“The down side is there will be more timber harvested within our water sheds. But that was going to happen anyway. This way we get some knowledge of the impacts and benefits as a result.”

Larry Price, Interfor woodlands manager for Adams Lake division, said the agreement involves creating a working group.

For Interfor, it puts a process in place and gives the company an opportunity with Skeetchestn’s timber tenures.

“We have various arrangements with the different First Nations. They’re all unique. They boil down to what works for Interfor and what works for the band. That is different in different areas. It’s not the first,” he said.

“It involves cultural heritage which is important to all First Nations. It’s a focus for all licencees. There’s been a lot of work in the last year and a half with a range of bands to look at the range of cultural heritage. So this isn’t unique.”

Price said there wasn’t much interaction between Interfor and the Skeetchestn band until the last year.

“It wasn’t until recently that we were looking to shore up our fibre supply going forward,” he said.

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