The Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn Indian Bands, located northwest of Kamloops, are seeking an injunction in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to prevent forestry activities within their traditional territory.
The injunction is being filed against International Forest Products Ltd. and West Fraser Mills Ltd. who hold licenses and permits to cut within the Jamieson Creek, Criss Creek, Heller Creek and Tranquille River watersheds.
“These watersheds are crucial to the people of the SSN,” says Skeetchestn Chief Rick Deneault. “The cutting International Forest Products and West Fraser Mills are approved to do in these watersheds threaten our culture, our way of life and our constitutionally protected rights. We must take steps to protect and manage our remaining intact forests.”
For the Stk’emlupsemc, the forests in the key watersheds provide habitat for animals traditionally hunted by the Secwepemc people, contain important streams and rivers for fish, and support plants that are significant for cultural and medicinal purposes.
Tk’emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson blames the current situation on decades of forest mismanagement.
“The province of BC and the forestry industry have created this mess. Now our territory is a patchwork of roads, clearcuts and sick pine plantations. Industrial forestry and silviculture practices have fundamentally changed the composition of the forest and made it susceptible to mountain pine beetle epidemics,” said Chief Gottfriedson
“These watersheds are a snapshot of what is going on all over our territory and across the BC interior and we worry there are only a few more years of logging left. It must be sustainable.”
“We are the rightful stewards of the forests in our territory,” adds Deneault. “We have the knowledge and capacity to sustainably manage forestry activities in our territory. Our bands have tried repeatedly to get the provincial government and various forestry companies to the table to work out a plan for co-management. But we’ve reached a tipping point. We simply cannot wait any longer.”