Vancouver Island First Nation approves 96 per cent of proposed old-growth deferrals on its land

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations on western Vancouver Island have approved deferrals to old-growth logging in most of the area the province proposed for deferrals last month.

On Nov. 1, B.C. proposed a two-year deferral on old-growth logging across roughly 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forest in the province.

The province then asked affected First Nations to respond to the proposed deferrals within 30 days.

Now, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations says it has approved the two-year deferral for 96 per cent of the forest that the province proposed to defer on its land.

The nation says the remaining four per cent involves logging operations that are already underway.

"These deferrals would have an impact on small portions of many different harvest areas in a variety of ways, including making entire harvest areas uneconomic or inaccessible or making the deferred portion subject to forest health concerns such as windthrow," said the Huu-ay-aht First Nations in a release Wednesday.

The nation adds that the harvest areas impact local workers as well as workers from Bamfield and the Alberni Region.

The nation says it has 153,773 hectares of productive forest on its land, of which 33 per cent – or 51,240 hectares – is considered "old forest," which is defined as trees that are at least 250 years old.

The province had proposed deferring 29 per cent of the old forest on Huu-ay-aht First Nations land, or 14,754 hectares.

The nation says that most of that deferral has been approved, with just 645 hectares, or four per cent, not approved for deferral.

"As a Modern Treaty Nation, Huu-ay-aht will decide how best to manage our lands and resources guided by our three Sacred Principles of ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one)," said Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin, (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters).

"We expect broad recognition and respect for our old growth two-year deferral decisions and our long-term forest and resource stewardship decisions," he said.

The nation notes that most of the area that the province proposed logging deferrals in are already protected by other existing conservation measures or had no immediate plans for harvesting.

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations adds that its decision Wednesday is only preliminary. A final decision on the deferrals is expected in mid-January. The nation is also working on a two-year integrate resource management plan that's expected to be completed in 2023.