The Lower Kootenay Band has sent a letter to B.C.’s forests ministry and to a timber company telling them to stop logging in an area known as the Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face on the east shore of Kootenay Lake.
“We demand that the forest company, Cooper Creek Cedar, stop logging on the Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face and benches immediately,” the letter states. It is signed by Nasuʔkin Jason Louie, the chief of the band that is located near Creston.
The letter explains that the area is in the unceded territory of the Yaqan Nuʔkiy people, also known as the Lower Kootenay Band.
“We have expressed concerns about the logging of CP (cutting permit) 405 and CP 416, but those concerns have never been addressed and indeed there has never been any consultation with the Lower Kootenay Band,” the letter states.
The Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face is a forested mountainside bordered on three sides by the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park and on the west by Kootenay Lake, extending from Argenta to Johnsons Landing.
For several years a local group has been unsuccessfully attempting to persuade the province to protect the area from logging by including it in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. Cooper Creek Cedar began logging in the area in May.
To clear the way for the logging, the RCMP arrested 17 people who were blocking or standing beside the Salisbury Creek forest road in protest on May 17. Another two were arrested this month.
In an April 29 article in the Nelson Star, Cooper Creek Cedar’s woodlands manager Bill Kestell said that in 2020 he discussed the logging with the Ktunaxa Nation Council (of which the Lower Kootenay Band is a member). Kestell said the council expressed no problem with his logging plans.
The forests ministry told the Star said that, according to an agreement between the province and the Cranbrook-based Ktunaxa Nation Council, consultations about logging would have taken place between the Cooper Creek Cedar and the council, not with individual bands. The company, therefore, would not have been expected to talk to the Lower Kootenay Band directly.
The Ktunaxa Nation Council did not respond to a Nelson Star request for clarification on Louie’s letter and on the 2020 discussions between Kestell and the council.
Kestell has declined to comment on Louie’s letter and would not say how he intends to respond to it.
Louie said he has heard nothing from the ministry or from the Cooper Creek Cedar in response to his letter.
“I haven’t heard anything, and more than likely it’s going to be ignored … and that is nothing new,” he said.
He said some band members visit the Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face area to harvest medicines, food, and fish, adding that many people in his community live in poverty and they are depended on these wild resources.
“The people that elected me have called upon me at this time to take a stand, that these families that go up and fish there, that is their inherent right to harvest on the land.”
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