Along the southwest edge of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC), lies the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation with a population of 287, of which about a third live within the territory. Due to the historic low prospects of employment, the majority of people have been forced to seek livelihoods outside of their traditional territory. The forests on the 163,000 terrestrial hectares of this territory contain fir, hemlock, red cedar, yellow cedar and other tree species that the Pacheedaht people have valued and used for thousands of years.
In British Columbia, approximately 95% of the province's timber is publicly owned. The BC government authorizes the rights to harvest Crown timber through forest tenures. A tree farm licence (TFL) is an area-based forest tenure that grants virtually exclusive rights to harvest timber, as well as to manage and conserve forests and recreational and cultural heritage resources, on a specified area of land.
Just ten years ago the forested area was entirely allocated through forest tenures and licence areas to third parties. None of these were held by the Pacheedaht. Since then, the Nation has forged ahead with proactive changes. Despite its small population, the Pacheedaht Nation has gone from not having any of the allowable cut of trees on its territory to managing or co-managing forest areas that yield about 140,000 cubic metres of annual cut, operating a sawmill and planning future forestry-related projects.
Thinking of the future
The Pacheedaht were very concerned with the long-term supply of cedar and their access to it for cultural purposes. In 2005, the Pacheedaht initiated development of the Pacheedaht Cedar Conservation Strategy through which they identified the volume and size of cedar they needed to revitalize and support their cultural practices, which require a supply of large, old-growth cedar trees. Rather than looking simply at current needs, the Nation took a long-term view – specifically, a 400-year view. This is the length of time it takes a red cedar to grow to a useable size for certain cultural items (such as large ocean-going canoes and totem poles) so it was the appropriate timeframe to consider when developing a strategy involving these long-lived trees. The Province and all major forest licensees within the territory have recognized the strategy and are part of its implementation. To date, the Pacheedaht have identified about 60% of the cedar needed to fulfil the cultural needs plan contained within the strategy. In 2010 the Pacheedaht were direct awarded Woodlot Licence 1957, located in close proximity to the community. Although the allowable annual cut is only 1,500 cubic metres per year, it provides opportunity for the First Nation to manage the tenure for community interests while providing some economic benefit.
Partnering with industry
The next achievement came when Pacheedaht First Nation and family-owned Andersen Timber Ltd. entered a 50/50 partnership in 2010 to purchase the Jordan River portion of TFL 25. Pacheedaht First Nation and Andersen Timber formed two jointly owned companies: one to own the TFL tenure and one to manage it. Now identified as TFL 61, the tenure covers 20,240 hectares of Pacheedaht traditional territory and provides an important income stream to the Nation. Not only are the Pacheedaht now realizing income from co-ownership of TFL 61, but they are also in a position that permits them greater influence over how the land base is managed.
The Pacheedaht now also have a second income stream from the forested land base within their territory as a result of a Forest Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreement (FCRSA) signed between the Pacheedaht and the Province of BC in 2017. Under this agreement, the Pacheedaht obtained a forest licence with a 20-year term that is renewable, authorizing a 7,300-cubic-metre annual cut. Pacheedaht Nation receives a percentage of the stumpage revenue generated from the timber cut by all tenure holders operating on the Nation’s traditional territory. In addition, the Pacheedaht are also nearing completion of an application process for a Community Forest Agreement tenure that will authorize management rights and an annual cut of approximately 30,000 cubic metres to a company co-owned by the Pacheedaht First Nation and the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-op. BC Timber Sales is also involved in this initiative.
These forestry income streams and land base management responsibilities have and will continue to allow the Pacheedaht to act on their vision of creating meaningful forestry jobs for their people on their lands. A component of each partnership is to encourage education by offering bursaries to prospective students.
Owning and operating forestry facilities
To date, the Pacheedaht own and operate two forestry facilities, and they have a third on the horizon. First, at TFL 61, a log sorting facility scales, grades, sorts and ships the cut timber from the TFL. Of the 12 people on the sort crew, two are Pacheedaht Band Members. Second, in 2017 the Pacheedaht built a sawmill on traditional lands in the community of Port Renfrew to process cedar logs. The small mill employs eight people, six of whom are Pacheedaht, and as Tom Jones, Forest Program Manager, says, the mill “processes a small volume (10,000 cubic metres) of high-quality logs that produce high-value, specialty cedar products.” Lastly – for now, anyway – the Pacheedaht have plans to open a chipping facility, which will create more jobs, within the next two years.
As well as direct jobs from the Pacheedaht’s forestry initiatives, a whole range of other jobs are associated with the increased activity. Where there are logging operations, there’s a need for cut-block planning and layout, timber cruising, cut-block management and tree planting, to name only a few. One of the Nation’s hurdles is having enough of their people living in the area trained to fill the positions and help build their resources. Tom Jones is optimistic that more Pacheedaht people will move back to the area as the forestry activities and other ventures grow and the Nation prospers.
"Pacheedaht for a long time has been shut out from the financial benefits that the resources extracted from our Traditional Territory have bestowed upon corporations and the government of BC,” says Chief Jeff Jones. “We are pleased with the steps BC has taken to partially address this and with our progress to date to acquire forest tenure rights within our Territory. All will lead to the self reliance and well-being of our people once again."
Province of British Columbia. Forest Tenures. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/forest-tenures (accessed February 23, 2018).
- Culturally Modified Tree photo by Michael Charlie, courtesy of the Pacheedaht First Nation.
- Photo of Mariyah Dunn-Jones stripping bark courtesy of Helen Jones.
- Workers in a sawmill photo courtesy of the Pacheedaht First Nation.