Evan Saugstad: Caribou politics, plain and simple


Last week, I wrote about the prospects of Chetwynd retaining both sawmills once B.C.’s Chief Forester completes their Timber Supply Reviews (TSR) for the Dawson Creek Timber Supply Area (TSA) and Tree Farm License 48 (TFL), and issues a new Annul Allowable Cut (AAC).

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This review begins a requirement of the Section 11 Partnership Agreement (Agreement) that removed 700,000 hectares from industrial development, including a significant amount of the timber harvesting landbase.

So why did this all happen? Why were local communities, local industries, local workers, and other local stakeholders so shut out of and barred from this important decision-making process?

How could B.C. add thousands of hectares of new park lands without involving local people, businesses, industries, and communities?

How could decisions be made transferring management of hundreds of thousands of hectares of public lands to two local First Nations that have publicly stated they do not need to involve anyone outside of their own memberships in this management?

How can Prime Minister Justin and Premier John agree to such a one-sided Agreement that will be so detrimental to the other local communities and their residents?

Politics, I say, pure politics.

This decision will not cost either the Federal Liberals or Provincial NDP one seat in their respective governments. Neither party has a chance of ever electing a member to their respective governments from B.C.’s northeast, so they do not care what happens to those who do not vote for them.

Premier Horgan insists this Agreement is required to hold off the Feds from imposing more draconian measures. This at the same time as Quebec tells the Feds to bug out of their caribou conservation planning.

Quebec has clearly stated they have no intention of implementing a caribou conservation plan for one of their herds, as it would be cost prohibitive. Let them be extirpated they say, as we have enough caribou elsewhere.

And the Feds response?

Silence, as they acknowledge Quebec is free to make its own decisions, and it's special.

So, what gives? Why not the same for B.C. and the Peace River area?

Both the federal Liberals and provincial NDP are tied to “environmental” groups that wish to exclude humans from our rural landscapes.

The B.C. Minister of Environment once headed up the BC Sierra Club.

Our Prime Minister’s former chief of staff and current political confidant once headed up the Canadian chapter of the World Wildlife Fund and one of his current Cabinet Ministers used to lead Equiterre, one Quebec’s environmental organizations, and worked for Greenpeace Quebec.

Politically, the Feds understand they cannot force Quebec to spend millions and put Quebecers out of work to save a few caribou from being extirpated in one location, when they have many caribou elsewhere. Not worth going to war in a place that will cost them votes, so much easier to find a cause in B.C. that has provincial support and that does not affect those who might vote for them.

Enter the B.C. Peace River country. Here they can do anything they wish, as they will not lose one elected member as a result.

In fact, it is just the opposite. Both governments will increase their chance of being re-elected by implementing this Agreement.

Many environmental groups are upset that our Provincial and Federal governments are approving pipelines, coal mines, and cutting trees. Some First Nations are also upset for the same reasons and claim that both governments are abandoning their reconciliation principles.

Signing this Agreement with two First Nations under the guise of caribou management, one that transfers land management rights and prohibits industry from operating over a large tract of public lands, will sell well to both audiences.

Enviros will be happier that they are one step closer to achieving a park stretching from Yellowstone to Yukon. They are now more likely to vote for our current governments, no matter which riding they reside.

Both governments can claim they are doing something for our environment.

Both governments can also claim they are doing something about indigenous reconciliation.

WMFN and SFN are now happy that they will be able to assert defacto control over these lands, as it has become abundantly clear that our governments will not say no to what either wish. Other indigenous peoples will be happy to use this Agreement as the minimum they can expect when it comes to land management negotiations within their own traditional areas.

As to any negative economic effects on WMFN and SFN as a result of this agreement; they need not worry as they have independent funding from senior governments to rely on, and when needed, other industries to support them as they so demand.

Although we heard governments apologizing for the way this Agreement came to pass, and that it would not be repeated, it is, and right before our very eyes.

For all you that expect governments to listen to your concerns about handing over thousands of hectares of lands at Charlie Lake and Red Creek, don’t hold your breath waiting for government to hear your concerns. That consultation is likely just as big a sham.

My partingcomments: which government has stated that non-band members will still be able to hunt on any lands subject to the Section 11 Partnership Agreement? They have clearly stated that the general public can fish, walk, climb, jump up and down and maybe, just maybe, snowmobile in some areas, but total silence about hunting.

Which government has promised any compensation for those losing their jobs, businesses, and homes? Details seem to be very short on these subjects.

Agreements negotiated in secret with one segment of society that favour one segment of society will do nothing for reconciliation or the elimination of racism.

How can it?

Evan Saugstad is a former mayor of Chetwynd, and lives in Fort St. John.

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