Aboriginal Forestry in British Columbia Lenze, Justin
Aboriginal Forestry is a recent development in the forestry industry of British Columbia. Due largely to a series of forestry-related court cases, Aboriginal rights and title are being increasingly recognized and defined. There have been significant forest tenure reforms and policy amendments that have enabled First Nations to play a larger role in forest land use planning. This has led to an increased inclusion of Aboriginal Interests – an Aboriginal right to the land recognized and affirmed in the Constitution Act, 1982, when the government or a private company is making decisions regarding forestry operations. Aboriginal Interests are unique The increased participation of Aboriginal peoples in the forestry industry has led to an increase in direct, forestry-related economic benefits, protection of culturally and traditionally significant features, and growth in infrastructure to support a healthy and sustainable community. In addition to court case rulings, forest tenures, and policy amendments, there is an increasing amount of programs, associations, and organizations devoted to aiding and promoting Aboriginal Forestry. Some of these initiatives are associated with provincial and/or federal government, while others are privately owned or non-profit organizations. There are similarly barriers that impede a complete blooming of Aboriginal Forestry in its full context. These barriers include, but are not limited to, partial recognition of Aboriginal rights and title, inadequate Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) policies, differing visions of land management, market conditions, and capacity issues. Given the historical context of the relationship between First Nations and the forestry industry in British Columbia, there has been a staggering amount of progression made by the First Nations in their tireless pursuit of Aboriginal rights and title recognition, and control over their traditional land. Currently, over 15% of the provincial Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) is held by First Nations, a figure that has increased from under 8% in 2010. If these recent trends continue, there will soon be a dominance of First Nation participation in the forestry industry, aiding in enabling true Aboriginal Forestry.
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