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Horgan promises 'prompt response' on First Nations' desire to defer old-growth logging

The deferral notice requires approval from the B.C. government.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the province will enter discussions with the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Pacheedaht First Nations, which have said they will defer old-growth logging for two years in Fairy Creek and the Central Walbran while they prepare plans for the areas.

"We are pleased to enter into respectful discussions with the Nations regarding their request," Horgan said in a statement released Monday. "We understand the request must be addressed expeditiously, and we will ensure a prompt response.

The Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Pacheedaht First Nations officially notified the province Saturday of their desire to defer old-growth logging in the areas. The deferral notice requires approval from the B.C. government.

Teal Jones, which owns the licence for Tree Farm Licence 46 that includes the area commonly known as Fairy Creek, where some of the blockades have been set up, said Monday that it would halt logging in the area.

The company has agreements with First Nations that have Indigenous rights in TFL-46. Current logging plans include logging in the Fairy Creek area.

“Teal Jones acknowledges the ancestral territories of all First Nations on which we operate and is committed to reconciliation. In recent years Teal Jones has had productive working relationships with 106 First Nations in BC, the specifics of each engagement reflecting the interests of the First Nation," it said in a statement.

"We will abide by the declaration issued today, and look forward to engaging with the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations as they develop Integrated Resource Forest Stewardship Plans.”

The First Nations are asking protesters to allow logging in other areas.

“Our three Nations look forward to building a future based on respectful nation-to-nation relationships with other governments that are informed by Indigenous history, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous rights, and Indigenous priorities,” Jeff Jones, chief councillor of the Pacheedaht First Nation, said in the press release.

“We ask that all peoples both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learn and move forward together and that by working together we can realize a future that is fair, just, and equitable.”

Protesters reacted said the move falls far short of what is needed.

"We have yet to see the exact maps but regardless it will allow for continued industrial logging of old-growth forest across southern Vancouver Island,” said a social media post by the Fairy Creek blockade group. "We have yet to know if the deferrals apply to road building, so they may not even protect Fairy Creek."

The Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht signed a declaration Friday “to take back their power over their ḥahahuułi,” or traditional territories, saying they have watched for more than 150 years as others have made decisions over their land and resources. “This declaration brings this practice to an immediate end.”

The First Nations said they have committed to manage their traditional territories and resources “the way our ancestors did,” said the statement from Huu-ay-aht head hereditary Chief Derek Peters, Ditidaht hereditary Chief Paul Tate, and Pacheedaht’s hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones. “We are in a place of reconciliation now and relationships have evolved to include First Nations. It is time for us to learn from the mistakes that have been made and take back our authority over our ḥahahuułi.”

— With a file from Business in Vancouver