B.C. extends aboriginal forest rights

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Forests Minister Steve Thomson

VICTORIA – The B.C. government is extending its interim forest and range agreements with aboriginal people to include a new 25-year woodland licence for Crown forests.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson announced the new licence Tuesday, one of a series of initiatives to mark National Aboriginal Day. It will provide exclusive rights to harvest Timber on designated Crown land, as well as rights to harvest, manage and charge fees for botanical forest products.

The B.C. government has signed 172 interim forest agreements with aboriginal groups since 2002, as a starting point for broader land and resource settlements that accompany treaties. More than 90 per cent of B.C. is Crown land, much of it subject to unresolved aboriginal land claims.

“This is something First Nations have been specifically asking for,” Thomson said. “We’ve been working closely with them to develop a licence that meets their specific needs and supports their participation in the forest sector.”

First Nations woodland licence holders are required to prepare management and operational plans, to comply with harvest regulations imposed on commercial forest operators. The licences are to be awarded without competition.

Aboriginal Relations Minister Mary Polak also announced $2.2 million in federal and provincial funding Tuesday for trades training directed to aboriginal people. The Industry Training Authority will administer the training to an estimated 350 participants in two dozen or more B.C. communities.

Another training program announced Tuesday funds three programs to train 36 aboriginal people for work in shellfish farming on the B.C. coast.

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