Tree Farm License 38 has seen its share of conflicts over the years.
In 1999 several loggers attacked a camp of protesters that had blocked the road into the Elaho in an effort to stop logging in an area that boasts some of the oldest trees discovered in the province.
The RCMP got involved, and for years there was a stalemate between conservation groups and loggers, until 2001 when the Squamish Nation came to an agreement with International Forest Products (Interfor), the holder of TFL 38, to hold off on logging and road building in the area while they were negotiating their own land use plan for that area, including the area around Sims Creek.
On Tuesday the Squamish First Nation announced the purchase of TFL 38 from Interfor for $6.5 million. That includes the Squamish, Sims, Ashlu and Elaho watersheds, and gives the Squamish Nation the right to cut 109,000 cubic metres of timber annually on top of the 98,000 cubic metres that they had acquired through license clawbacks under the Forest and Range agreement.
"This is a great day for the Squamish Nation," said Chief Bill Williams, co-chair of the Squamish Nation Chiefs and Council. "We have a long-standing desire to participate fully in economic activity on our traditional territory, and we have a long-standing determination to increase our decision-making authority within our lands."
According to Williams the Squamish community will also benefit, as the Northwest Squamish Forestry Limited Partnership owned by Squamish Nation will continue to operate the licences and provide employment to the local forest industry. They also believe that there will be an opportunity to increase employment, with the Forest and Range license and the fact that second-growth timber will be ready to harvest in 15-20 years.
Interfor said the decision to sell the tenure to log TFL 38 made sense, given that the land was being subdivided. The companys mills and export operations, which are more profitable, will also continue to have access to the raw logs.
Conservationists are also chalking up the sale as a win. Squamish Nation has committed to sustainable logging practices, and to preserve the Upper Elaho and Sims valleys.
In November Chief Bill Williams received the 2005 Eugene Rogers Environmental Award by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and in his acceptance speech he hinted that the bands negotiations to preserve Wild Spirit Places in its traditional territory were going well.
For Joe Foy, the campaign director for the WCWC, the announcement was the best possible outcome for the region. Foy has been campaigning for protected areas within TFL 38 since 1995.
"Its a huge step for a resolution for this area, and a lot of people have been working for a resolution for a long time," he said.
"The next step is for the province to recognize the Wild Spirit Places in legislation, and thats a big step, but owning the timber license for the area definitely is a good start.
"We always dreamed that something like this would happen and now its a reality."
Foy first got the news on Monday night after a four-day snowshoe trip through Garibaldi Park. He said it was the best Christmas present he could ask for, and inspires him to continue to work on other seemingly impossible campaigns.
"When I think of the situation in 1995, then in 1999 and 2000, it was pretty intense. This (news) definitely keeps me going, and you need that kind of thing from time to time. We always had to believe in the face of impossibility that something like this could happen," said Foy.
"I also think of all the people who spent so much time on this. John Clark and Chief Bill Williams started their Witness program a few years ago, to start building support."
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