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C̕awak ʔqin Forestry enhances protection of tall trees in TFL 44


April 14, 2022
By C̕awak ʔqin Forestry

Effective today, C̕awak ʔqin Forestry is re-confirming its commitment to Indigenous stewardship by expanding its industry-leading protection of tall trees, and the forests around them, in Tree Farm Licence 44 (TFL 44).

Trees within TFL 44 that are over 70 metres in height will be retained as part of C̕awak ʔqin Forestry’s retention standards while the two-year Indigenous-led TFL 44-wide Integrated Resource Management Plan (IRMP) is completed and implemented in accordance with British Columbia’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. This policy change increases protection by lowering the current retention height of 80 metres to 70 metres.

“For comparison, the Douglas fir tree identified as ‘Big Lonely Doug’ that generated controversy for its retention as a single tree within a cutblock on Vancouver Island, measures 70.2 metres,” said Rob Botterell, director with C̕awak ʔqin Forestry Board of Directors. “Retaining the forest around these tall trees is critical to ensuring we protect them from wind and other impacts while maintaining their integrity and ecological value.”

Using LiDAR data, C̕awak ʔqin Forestry has identified over 4,000 tall trees and will be confirming that forest reserves are in place around them. An estimated area of 14,000 hectares of existing and planned preserved forests in TFL 44 is associated with these tall trees. By comparison, the provincial government’s Technical Advisory Panel recommended deferral of harvest of 11,860 hectares in TFL 44. Over the next two years, professional foresters and ecologists working with the Indigenous Witwak Guardians will verify the LiDAR-identified tall trees and work with TFL 44 Nations to decide on long-term retention measures.

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“Tall tree protection is made possible by our investment in leading-edge LiDAR forest inventories,” said Shannon Janzen, RPF, chair of the C̕awak ʔqin Forestry Board of Directors. “This change in tall tree retention aligns with Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ practices on its lands and tenures and maintains options for long-term decisions made through the TFL 44 IRMP process.”

This tall tree protection measure complements the existing protection of large diameter trees and will support First Nations’ decision making through the IRMP. For example, C̕awak ʔqin Forestry will continue to monitor planned harvest areas to ensure that very large diameter trees are also not harvested unless requested by the applicable First Nation. First Nations’ requests for harvest of a tall or large diameter tree for cultural and other purposes, such as a totem pole or other carving projects, will be respected.

Implementation of this policy will be supported and monitored by the Indigenous Witwak Guardians who are responsible for protecting, monitoring, and enhancing C̕awak ʔqin Forestry operations.

“We are pleased that C̕awak ʔqin Forestry has decided to follow our lead and establish expanded measures to protect tall trees,” said Robert J. Dennis Sr., Chief Councillor, Huu-ay-aht First Nations. “Most importantly, C̕awak ʔqin Forestry is demonstrating respect for the decision-making role of First Nations’ governments in TFL 44. Too often, third parties fail to realize that tall trees are harvested by First Nations for important spiritual, social, ceremonial, and economic reasons. The land is our culture, and it is our decisions as the original title holders that must be respected. And, through its actions, this is exactly what C̕awak ʔqin Forestry is doing today – demonstrating respect.”

This policy follows the previously announced TFL 44 IRMP process for forest and ecosystem management, the Hišuk ma c̕awak Manufacturing Initiative (HMI), a first-of-its kind collaboration between First Nations and industry to create a leading model for a climate positive future, and the recent TFL 44 old growth report, which shows that 32 per cent of the forests in TFL 44 are old growth. A key component of the TFL 44 IRMP and HMI processes will be to work with First Nations in TFL 44 and seek their guidance and direction on long-term policies as C̕awak ʔqin Forestry pursues its commitment to be climate positive by 2030.

“This decision is positive for all First Nations in TFL 44,” said Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters), Head Hereditary Chief, Huu-ay-aht First Nations, and Director with C̕awak ʔqin Forestry Board of Directors. “These measures will expand the protection of tall trees while Nations in TFL 44 establish long-term stewardship plans that respect First Nations’ decision making in collaboration with C̕awak ʔqin Forestry. It must be remembered that many tall trees in the valley bottoms were logged 50-70 years ago, so recruitment of more tall trees in these areas is a project that will ensure sustainability for the next seven generations.”