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Seabird signs forestry agreement

Seabird Chief Clem Seymour greeted MLAs Barry Penner, Mary Polak and John Les to Seabird Island last Monday for a ceremonial signing of a new forest revenue sharing agreement. The new agreement will compensate the band based on actual forestry activity, instead of population. -  Jessica Peters/ Observer
Seabird Chief Clem Seymour greeted MLAs Barry Penner, Mary Polak and John Les to Seabird Island last Monday for a ceremonial signing of a new forest revenue sharing agreement. The new agreement will compensate the band based on actual forestry activity, instead of population.
— image credit: Jessica Peters/ Observer

Seabird Island is the latest First Nation band to enter into a forestry revenue sharing agreement with province.

The agreement was signed on April 11, at a ceremony in the band's gymnasium.

Several political figures attended, including Mary Polak, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.

The new agreement "is a significant change for First Nations in the forestry sector," she said. "It ensures that revenue from on-the-ground harvesting has a direct benefit on the future development of the Seabird Island community and all First Nations across B.C. who sign onto these agreements."

The three-year term replaces an older model agreement, which had become outdated. Sts'ailes (formerly Chehalis) signed a similar agreement late last year.

The new agreement in Seabird will translate into a $252,000 initial "bridging payment" from the old term. While a news release from the province stated that the first year of the agreement will put $230,000 into Seabird's coffers in the first year, many at the ceremony believed that the real numbers will be higher.

"I am always impressed by the potential that exists here," MLA John Les said. "Trees are a renewable resource and (through this agreement) we can now plan economic opportunity for years ahead."

He said the forestry sector is starting to rebound, which will result in higher returns.

The old Forest and Range Opportunity Agreements were based on population. The new Forestry Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreements are now directly related to harvesting activity. First Nations bands starting signing the agreements in November 2010.

"This is a significant step forward for Seabird," Les said.

Chief Clem Seymour said the agreement was more about managing money and trees. It also shows that Seabird and the province can work together for a common goal.

"This opens the door just a little bit," he said. "We can go a long way when we start to understand each other."

This is how to make sure what we have today is going to be there tomorrow, and the days after tomorrow."

But in the end, it will also compensate Seabird for work done on their territory.

"This is going to take care of a lot of long term goals," he added.

MLA Barry Penner was also at the ceremony, which included drumming, blanketing and gift giving.

While this was the first time Polak has met with Seymour in her new role as minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, it was not her first time visiting the area. Polak's father's last name was Inkman, and even though she was raised in Langley, Polak said her childhood was filled with visits to the area to visit family.

news@ahobserver.com

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