Think of future when logging, special committee told

'We have concerns about opening up our protected areas to harvesting'

Area First Nations told a special legislative committee meeting in Kamloops on Thursday the province should not allow logging of every last stick of timber in order to prop up jobs.

"We have concerns about opening up our protected areas to harvesting," said Shane Gottfriedson, chief of the Tk'emlups Indian Band and chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council.

"It's a short-term solution. . . . We plan for seven generations."

The committee of Liberals and New Democrats finished its tour of B.C. at a final meeting at Kamloops Coast Hotel and Conference Centre.

The committee will present a report in mid-August on ways to increase timber supply over the next five years and beyond in the wake of mountain pine beetle and drastically reduced volumes available to mills. The scarcity is the most dire in areas including Quesnel, Prince George and Vanderhoof.

Shuswap leaders and representatives said planning comes late and in a rush that threatens their economic interests, wildlife and environmental values.

Dave Nordquist, a staff member at Adams Lake Indian Band who works in title and rights, warned against propping up the forest industry, which may take away workers from industries that require them.

"Are we artificially trying to keep people? How do you subsidize someone's wage in an excavator 100 per cent, rather than going to the oil and gas sector where they could earn $600 a day?"

But those academic arguments don't hold sway in hard-hit areas. While the Kamloops region has suffered losses from pine beetle, it has a more diversified economy and mix of tree species.

Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart noted some 66 First Nations people had jobs at the Burns Lake sawmill that burned to the ground earlier this year. Whether another mill takes its place depends on guarantee of wood fibre in the future - on a drastically diminished timber resource.

Industry and politicians are now looking at protected areas set aside in the 1990s under land-use plans of the day. Those areas were protected to protect values including wildlife, recreation and habitat.

"First Nations are a large part of that (Burns Lake) community," Stewart said. "They live in that community and are a big part of utilizing that resource."

Committee chair John Rustad, from Nechako Lakes - ground zero beetle devastation - said voices have come on all sides of the debate.

"In Burns Lake, they're saying 'when we designed the land and resource management plans (20 years ago) we didn't contemplate mountain pine beetle. Would we have made the same decisions (to set aside lands) today?' "

Nathan Matthew, a representative of the Simpc (North Thompson) Indian Band, said while government ponders opening up protected areas, wood continues to be wasted elsewhere.

"It's notable in fall the amount of fibre that's burned - that's a sin. We pile it up and torch it."

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