First NationsCombining the efforts — and tenures—of First Nations

The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in the B.C. Interior is looking at ways that scattered First Nations communities with small tenures can work together, and scale up the opportunities and benefits from the forest resource.

By Jim Stirling

There may be strength in numbers but there are economies and opportunities in scale. The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC) understands that and wants to take advantage of the potential of scale.

The CSTC is examining ways to extract more value and benefits from its traditional forestlands through combining its joint resources. As it stands, the eight scattered communities that comprise the CSTC in central British Columbia hold valid forest licences, but they are generally of the small and non-replaceable types.

“The small tenures are not economically viable on their own,” pointed out Terry Teegee, the CSTC’s tribal chief. “If we could package them together, we would have good leverage in terms of making a deal with a forest company. We need to look at the landscape level.”

The timing for furthering that objective could prove fortuitous. “There are a lot of dead pine trees out there now and we could be part of the solution toward using them,” explained Teegee. He sees end use possibilities from the fibre source in biofuels and green energy for isolated communities that could help wean them off costly and polluting diesel generated power.

“We are right in the midst of a five to 10 year transition period of change and flux,” continued Teegee, who is a registered professional forester. “We have the current state of affairs in the United States, timber supply reviews that mean less available timber in this part of B.C., and we have small, forestry dependent towns in the region needing help.” Teegee believes this transition period needs to be recognized and accommodated by the provincial government.

Member nations in the CSTC are: the Burns Lake Band; Nak’azdli Band; Nadleh What’en; Saik’uz First Nation; Stellat’en First Nation; Takla Lake First Nation; Tlatzen Nation and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council’s eight member First Nations have a combined population in excess of 5,000 people and territories amounting to twice the size of Vancouver Island. The CSTC acts as an advocate for and frequently represents the interests of its member nations in forestry related matters.

First Nations and their traditional territories are fundamental to the B.C. forest industry functioning smoothly. The reality was reinforced in June 2014 with the Ts’ilhqot’in Nation decision in the Supreme Court of Canada. The ruling recognized the First Nations aboriginal title to its traditional territories in the Chilcotin region of B.C.

“We’ve said to the forest industry things have to change. We are now a recognized form of government and decision maker,” explained Teegee.

Most of the forest companies now understand that, and co-operate with the new reality, said Teegee. But there are others which still want to stay in the old ways of doing business on the land base.

“They need to understand we are the decision makers, a part of the economy and contributors to the economy.”

Teegee noted the recognition of First Nations as land use decision making partners brings with it responsibility. When it comes to shared First Nations territories, they have to find ways to deal with them internally, as a unit, he explained. “We can then make better decisions on the land use,” he added, “ and contribute better to the economy.”

Teegee was part of last fall’s B.C. government-led trip to Asia to promote the use of wood products and the province’s forest industry resource. The trade promotion trips are typically attended by governments—including First Nations—forest industry executives and ancillary industry representatives. It was an eye opener for Teegee.

“In Japan they were very well informed about the state of First Nations in British Columbia. They knew about unsettled treaties here and that First Nations have a huge say in matters concerning timber, oil and pipelines.” He said Japanese buyers appreciate wood use in their buildings and especially high quality wood products. In homes and other structures, whether it ends up being covered by other material or not, clear wood is preferred, he continued. 
The Japanese buyers appreciate B.C. wood not just for its quality but for its strength, seismic resistance capabilities and fire resilience properties.

Teegee said B.C. First Nations might consider sending a larger contingent to countries like Japan and China. He said the participation level could be part of the now regular provincial government-led trade promotion visits or First Nations might consider organizing a visit specifically tailored to potential First Nation opportunities in the Asian markets.

In the meantime and in a more regional context, Teegee suggested another way the forest industry can benefit now from the emerging First Nation economy. The well documented ageing population and its effects on the economy generally and industries like forestry specifically are already showing up and creating manpower shortage issues. “A large segment of our population is youth, under 25 years old, and it represents an untapped opportunity for employers,” pointed out Teegee.

Forest companies are looking for people and by offering more opportunities for training and education, the job demand could be filled, he suggested. He cited Conifex Inc., in Fort St. James as an example of what can be accomplished. Three bands have an interest in the operation and supply it with timber. A conservative one-third of the sawmill workers there are native. Additional numbers of First Nation workers find jobs in the bush, driving logging trucks and in silvicultural activities.”We think there’s a huge potential there as more and more of the First Nation workers become better trained and educated,” said Teegee. Increasing and improving employment prospects in the forest industry represents a further example of First Nation participation in, and contribution to, the overall. 

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
May 2017

On the Cover:
Simple, clean and efficient were the guiding principles for B.C. logger Gregory Jacob when he began his examination of available steep slope log harvesting methods. He was able to get exactly that, and the key new machine in Gregory’s steep slope arsenal is a wheeled John Deere 1910E cut to length forwarder with a Haas winch. Read all about it on page 10 (Cover photo by Jim Stirling).

Spotlight - Finding your future employees
A new Forestry Machine Operator Training program being offered by the Canadian Woodlands Forum and several other organizations could be part of the answer to the challenge of finding, and training, equipment operators—and be a model for elsewhere in Canada.

Lo-Bar tackles high ground
B.C.’s Lo-Bar Transport has a new steep slope system involving a wheeled John Deere 1910E cut to length forwarder with a Haas winch which provides easier access to timber across a broader cross section of steep and challenging terrains.

Up in smoke—not
A new sawmill came on stream this spring in the B.C. Interior—thanks to the co-operation of three forest industry parties—and the end result is that wood fibre that would have been piled and literally gone up in polluting smoke will now be converted to viable wood products.

Combining the efforts—and tenures—of First Nations
The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in the B.C. Interior is looking at ways that scattered First Nations communities with small tenures can work together, and scale up the opportunities and benefits from the forest resource.

Going Dutch on sawmill
Two companies have joined forces on a new specialty sawmill that is taking Sitka Spruce in northwestern B.C.—known for growing tall and straight, with long fibres and tight ring counts—to produce high end product for a reman plant in Holland.

Canada North Resources Expo Official Show Guide
Extensive show coverage including CNRE stories, exhibitor list, floor plan … and more!

Forest fire fighting—with drones!
Drones are proving to be very useful tools in business, and a B.C. firm is now exploring their practical applications in the working forest, notably in wildfire control and prevention, an increasing area of concern considering extreme weather patterns.

Drones Deliver Data for Pinnacle

Planer ups production
The planer mill at Tolko’s Armstrong, B.C., sawmill is seeing positive bottom-line results from an upgrade that has allowed the planer operation to greatly increase its production—with the kicker that more of that production is higher grade lumber.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

The Last Word
Super logging equipment consumers are super valuable to logging equipment manufacturers—and dealers, says Jim Stirling.


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