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First Nations block forestry in the Chilcotin
Tolko and West Fraser logging operations west of Williams Lake have been stopped by groups of protesting Tsilhqot’in First Nations.
Tolko woodlands manager of harvesting Jerry Mooney said as many as 55 of one of its contractor’s employees are being affected by the action of one of the blockades, set up Monday, ironically at the start of National Forest Week.
“It appears it’s four or five individuals near our logging camp at the junction of the 2800 and 3200 Roads,” Mooney said. “The contractor, Westline Harvesting, is working on a B.C. Timber Sales cutblock at this point, not a Tolko cutblock.”
Mooney added Tolko values its relationship with local First Nations and is working with First Nations leaders, the RCMP and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to determine the source and nature of the grievance.
Yunesit’in (Stone) Chief Russell Myers Ross said Monday the peaceful forestry blockades are a result of frustrations boiling over.
Earlier on Friday, Sept. 13, members of the Myers family set up another blockade to stop equipment going into an area known as Yannah.
“I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” Myers Ross said. “There is a sentiment in the community that there is a lot of overharvesting throughout the whole area.”
Yannah is located about 50 kilometres from Lee’s Corner toward Nemiah Valley, and is an area where members of the Myers family were born and raised.
Family members went there to stop forestry vehicles and equipment, not knowing which company would be stopped, and it ended up being West Fraser, Myers Ross said.
“At meetings, members of the community always express their concerns about overharvesting and feel that nothing is being done.”
Myers Ross said the second blockade at the junction is more about protecting moose habitat.
“We didn’t feel enough effort was put into dealing with moose hunting concerns,” Myers Ross said. “When the numbers are so dire, allowing limited entry hunting is probably not the best thing to do at this point.”
West Fraser said its discussions with the band are ongoing and it anticipated meeting with Yunesit’in Tuesday.
The MFLNRO said it is monitoring the situation and is in close communication with the RCMP, the Tsilhqot’in National Government and forest licensees.