Two recent reports, one by the B.C. Forest Practises Board and the other by the B.C. auditor general describe our forests as under-studied, under-inventoried and insufficiently reforested, especially in light of the mountain pine beetle epidemic which has affected up to half the available pine in our province. This is the stuff of national news that the people of Burns Lake and district live with long after national news has turned its focus elsewhere. Burns Lake is again in the eye of national interest with the announcement today that Hampton Affiliates will rebuild the Babine mill.
This decision is what the community has been hoping to hear, but the road ahead is not easy. Rebuilding the mill does not restock the forest or counter the years of neglect of our most valuable and valued resources. The biggest stories this week (the fate of the mill, the success of Lake Babine Nation’s salmon harvest, and the final report regarding the allocation of NEEF money) are all resource related and hide a lot in their shadows.
With the mill being rebuilt, how will Burns Lake define its place in tomorrow’s forestry industry? If we predicate what we do tomorrow on what we did in the past then our tomorrows are numbered. We need a new blueprint for the management of our forests and of the forestry industry. This is an exciting time for the community forest and its management team to build on their demonstrated strengths and become a voice of leadership locally and in the province.
The Lake Babine Nation’s fishery has had great success over the past two seasons. The shameful note to our story covering this year’s harvest is that it could have been a story more than 100 years long in the running. They had a successful and sustainable fishery until 1906 when it was ordered closed in favour of a coastal fishery that has long been criticized as harmful to the size and stock diversity of the salmon population.
NEEF (Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund) money for the Kenney Dam fresh water release facility is available, but it remains for the Cheslatta Carrier Nation to first raise their own funds before anything will be released from the NEEF. This money was awarded as part of a rehabilitation project recognizing the harm done to the Cheslatta in the destruction of their land and way of life during the flooding of the Nechako Reservoir [Rio Tinto Alcan] in 1952. In 2012 there seems to be strong willingness to get this project off the ground, but where will the initial money for this and other projects come from? The province doesn’t appear to be in a position to put money into the things that matter most to us in Northern B.C. and with large stakeholders like Rio Tinto Alcan able to postpone their contribution, despite having reaped enormous benefits from the land, we have to ask, what’s the real story here?
The mill will be rebuilt; that’s a genuine front page, good news story. But like other events we followed this week, you can be sure that the whole story doesn’t fit in a headline. As your new editor at the Lakes District News I look forward to getting the whole story out to you, and I’ll need your help to do that.