Blueberry River First Nation says it has agreed to postpone its lawsuit against the province as the two parties continue to address the cumulative impacts of industrial development in its territory.
"Blueberry River First Nations is open to pursing the enforcement and implementation of the rights promised by Treaty 8, and security for our future generations, through good faith and productive collaboration rather than litigation," reads a statement released by Blueberry River today.
"The present adjournment allows that work to get underway and for real progress to demonstrate."
A trial was first postponed in June and has now been postponed until April 29, 2019.
Blueberry River and the province say they continue to work out an agreement on land use planning and wildlife management.
In its own release, the province says the agreement will update and amend the Fort St. John Land and Resource Management Plan, which is expected to begin this month to determine the scope of amends with the First Nation, local governments, industry, stakeholders, and other Treaty 8 First Nations.
Other commitments include restoration of selected inactive roads, seismic lines and oil and gas sites, new wildlife protection measures and developing new processes intended to create a more collaborative approach to resource development approvals, the province said.
"If the parties continue to make sustained progress together in the upcoming months, the litigation could be placed into a long-term abeyance agreement," the province said.
Blueberry River said it welcomed the province's willingness to address its issues, but noted its civil claim against the province is still on the table.
"Given the state of the cumulative impacts in our territory, we cannot waste time," it said.
"We are ready to begin serious work with the province. However, if progress is not made, we will have to turn our efforts back to our civil claim to seek assistance from the court."
The province has provided the following backgrounder on its commitments in its agreement with Blueberry River:
Fort St. John Land and Resource Management Plan
B.C. has committed to undertake a process to update and amend the Fort St. John Land and Resource Management Plan, in collaboration with Blueberry River First Nations and other interested Treaty 8 First Nations.
The amendment process will include engagement with local communities, industry, stakeholders and the general public. The process will start with an exercise with interested parties to determine the scope of amendments, but will include, at a minimum:
* Establishment of new protected areas within Blueberry River First Nations territory, including proposals for the expansion for the Pink Mountain protected area and a new protected area near Dancing Grounds;
* Establishment of an ecosystem-based management approach to land and resource management. An ecosystem-based management approach seeks to ensure the co-existence of healthy ecosystems and human activities, and will be developed during the amendment scoping process;
* Measures to support caribou recovery;
* Measures to protect and restore important cultural and traditional-use areas for Blueberry River First Nations.
The amendment process will also be integrated with other processes that are underway, and will identify goals and objectives for community and economic development, taking into account long-term stability, certainty for economic development and the meaningful exercise of Treaty 8 rights.
The BC Oil and Gas Commission, and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, are working with Blueberry River First Nations to jointly develop robust consultation processes for resource development applications that are clear, efficient and effective in meeting both B.C.'s and Blueberry River First Nations' interests.
The Province is also working to create an overarching committee with resource ministries and Blueberry River First Nations to monitor the implementation of the adjournment agreement. The committee will also provide a forum to discuss strategic and policy issues related to land use and proposed resource development in Blueberry River's territory.
The Province will undertake a number of actions, including:
* Moose population inventories, in collaboration with Blueberry River and other Treaty 8 First Nations, including making management recommendations, taking into consideration the results from those inventories, as well as First Nations traditional knowledge with respect to moose;
* A predator control program to support caribou recovery in the Pink Mountain and Chinchaga areas;
* Identifying appropriate areas with Blueberry River First Nations for a controlled burn program to improve wildlife habitat.
The Province will provide $3.5 million to support work to undertake the environmental restoration of priority locations identified by Blueberry River First Nations. This includes restoring abandoned and decommissioned oil and gas sites, and reclaiming unused corridors, such as old roads and seismic lines.
Blueberry River First Nations and appropriate provincial ministries and agencies will work collaboratively on a suite of other actions, including addressing the use of herbicides, fencing in relation to oil and gas sites, and initiatives to improve approaches to timber salvage and waste-wood operations within Blueberry River's territory.