VANCOUVER, March 8, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - The Quebec Cree First Nation of Waswanipi met with B.C. First Nations who were involved in negotiating the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement to learn how to best protect their forests in the Broadback region. Their meeting comes in the wake of climate action talks between the Prime Minister and Premiers in Vancouver as well as the 2016 GLOBE Leadership Summit for Sustainable Business.
The meetings came a week after the official signing of the agreement, 20 years in the making, and a day after the Great Bear Rainforest (Forest Management) Act was introduced in the B.C. Legislature by Premier Christy Clark's government.
"We thank the First Nations who met with us and shared their vision for the Great Bear Rainforest", said Marcel Happyjack, Chief of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi. "A key finding for us was that willing partners, such as the Province of B.C. and logging companies, can find creative solutions that work for everyone. We are bringing this lesson back to our discussions with Premier Couillard, the Premier of Quebec and the logging sector."
The groundbreaking agreement provides for the protection of 85 per cent of the Great Bear Rainforest, an area the size of Ireland on B.C.'s north and central coasts. The region is the habitat for the rare Kermode or Spirit Bear and is one of the earth's most important temperate rainforests. The agreement involved the provincial government, 24 First Nations, environmental groups and representatives from the forestry sector. It provides for a four-tiered protection system, co-managed by the First Nations, with varying degrees of activities allowed. Nearly a half million hectares are completely protected. In the 15 per cent of the area that allows logging, the Government of B.C. and timber companies agreed to only use ecosystem-based management, which recognizes ecological integrity and human well-being.
In addition to the protection of the Great Bear Rainforest, the First Nations worked with provincial authorities to develop an innovative way to manage climate change, namely carbon credits managed and sold by the Great Bear Forest Carbon Project. An audit process will determine how much carbon is "sunk" by keeping more forest protected. The carbon credits are then sold on the market, benefiting both the Government of B.C. (the main customer) and the First Nations who own the credits. This funding will be used to create jobs, primarily for the monitoring and stewardship of the area.
"We heard from one Chief that the Great Bear Agreement has now resulted in as many jobs – in stewardship work – as was once created by logging. This proves that protecting forests does in fact create jobs," said the Chief.
The First Nations that Chief Marcel Happyjack and his delegation met with have offered to visit the Broadback in the near future to provide additional advice on how the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement and the Carbon Project can provide a model for solutions that benefit all Quebecers, including the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi.
"If the Province of B.C. and First Nations can sign the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, we see no reason why we can't achieve something similar in the Broadback area with the Province of Quebec, to protect the remaining 10 per cent of unlogged area in our territory," said the Chief.
Chief Happyjack and his Deputy Chief Mandy Gull travelled to British Columbia with a six-person delegation that included community members of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, hunters and trappers and talleymen, who are Cree land stewards. They met with the following First Nations, individuals and organizations:
- Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative (represents nine signatory Nations)
- Kitasoo/Xai'Xais First Nation (signatory Nation)
- Nanwakolas Council (represents seven signatory Nations)
- George Abbott (former Province of B.C. Minister of Sustainable Resource Management during key Great Bear Rainforest negotiations)
- Greenpeace Great Bear Rainforest Campaign
- Canopy (an environmental group that works with forestry companies on sustainable practices)
- NatureBank (carbon credit trading advisors)
SOURCE Cree First Nation of Waswanipi
Image with caption: "Left to right: Chief Marcel Happyjack, Dallas Smith, Board President, Nanwakolas Council, Deputy Chief Mandy Gull of Waswanipi (CNW Group/Cree First Nation of Waswanipi)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160308_C8380_PHOTO_EN_637883.jpg
Image with caption: "Left to right: Jenny Happyjack (Chief’s wife), Chief Marcel Happyjack, Glen Cooper (Communications), Paul Dixon (Talleyman and hunter), Gary Wouters (CFN), Don Saganash (Talleyman and hunter), Deputy Chief Mandy Gull, Eduardo Sousa (Greenpeace), Patrick Kelly (CFN), Chief Wally Webber (CFN, Nuxalk First Nation) (CNW Group/Cree First Nation of Waswanipi)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160308_C8380_PHOTO_EN_637885.jpg
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