Ontario Fiddles with Indigenous Forestry Rights: Seven Demands

Indigenous Forestry

Ontario is proposing major forest management changes for species at risk, and forest carbon management. Indigenous forestry rights are at stake. What are you going to do about it?

 

We're learning about a number of changes the province of Ontario is considering that may impact Indigenous forest rights and interests.  These include big questions about who will manage forest carbon and the Indigenous wealth that can be created from forest carbon offsets, and policies that will impact species and habitat valued by Indigenous stewards.

 

Seven Demands We're Hearing from Indigenous Forestry Stewards

 

We’re hearing the following seven demands for the future of forestry management in Ontario from our client communities:

  1. Indigenous communities MUST BE thoroughly consulted and accommodated, and given the resources and time necessary to critically review any changes to forestry management legislation, regulations, policies and programs 
  2. Indigenous forest stewards MUST BE engaged in collaboratively developing all new forest management legislation and regulations
  3. Indigenous communities have the rights to manage forest carbon, and get the financial benefits of producing carbon offsets that come with good Indigenous stewardship - the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources MUST NOT be allowed to manage forest carbon and take away revenues from Indigenous forest stewards
  4. Indigenous stewards MUST BE involved in decision making that includes weighing the implications of any proposed forestry management exemptions that will affect species at risk and species habitat 
  5. Species and habitat protection MUST reflect Indigenous goals and objectives for species of interest and habitat protection
  6. A mandatory requirement for the inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge MUST BE included in the proposed updated Crown Forest Sustainability Act to enable Indigenous decision-making for identifying critical habitat for species at risk and species of cultural importance in the permitting process
  7. Funding for Indigenous-led Species-at-Risk (SAR) baseline research and monitoring programs MUST BE provided as soon as possible to inform effective policy change in the future

So What's Up?

1) Who Will Manage Forest Carbon and the Wealth from Producing Carbon Offests?

Ontario is creating forest carbon policy for how Ontario’s managed Crown forests might help fight climate change.  Ontario released its discussion paper, “Ontario’s Crown Forests: Opportunities to Enhance Carbon Storage?” for a 62-day public review and comment period starting November 22, 2016. The purpose of the discussion paper was to explore forest carbon policy approaches and opportunities to optimize the mitigation of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through Ontario’s managed Crown forests. 

 

A Forest Carbon Policy project is identified as a key action in Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (2016). The Carbon Storage discussion paper outlines goals and outcomes for the Ontario Forest Carbon Policy project and includes two policy approaches Ontario is considering for carbon management in Ontario’s managed Crown forests:

 

1) forest carbon management - a government-led approach that could use forest carbon policies to influence the amount of carbon stored in forests and in wood products.

 

2) forest carbon offset projects - a market-driven approach that would enable forest carbon offset projects on managed Crown forests (likely including Indigenous carbon offset production and offset revenue creation)

 

The big question is if the massive carbon offset wealth available to good Indigneous forestry stewards will find its way to Indigenous rights-holders, or be "managed" by Ontario.

 

Many of our Indigenous clients support a policy approach to create carbon offset projects - a market-driven approach that would enable Indigenous forest carbon offset projects on managed forests, and significant wealth creation to reward good stewardhsip. This approach is compatible with trends toward First Nation forest tenure and stewardship and the exercise of First Nation jurisdiction on so-called “Crown” lands that are treaty lands. 

 

If, instead of carbon offset projects that benefit Indigenous forest stewards, Ontario chooses to manage forest carbon on its own - a government-led approach that could use forest carbon policies to influence the amount of carbon stored in forests and in wood products – then Ontario should be prepared to engage First Nations in deep and meaningful consultation aimed at achieving First Nation consent for such a Crown decision that will impact the amount of carbon stored in forests on treaty lands and in wood products derived from treaty lands, and impact the wealth that could be generated through Indigenous carbon offset production.

 

2) Who Will Manage Policies and Programs for Species and Habitat Protection?

In 2013, the MNRF announced a five-year exemption for forestry operations in the province from the provisions of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. The exemption was made on the assumption that the Crown Forest Sustainability Act adequately protects endangered species and that enforcing the intricacies of the Endangered Species Act along with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act was presenting an "unnecessary burden" of time and cost to forestry proponents and regulators.

 

With little research evidence to-date, it’s not clear if relying solely on the CFSA over the last five years promoted the health of forests or the vitality of the forestry industry.  

 

With the exemption expiring on July 1, 2018, the the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is hurriedly working towards a policy solution it hopes will fulfill the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, while maintaining the regulatory efficiency that forestry developers have enjoyed over the last five years. The harmonization of these two pieces of legislation has been the acronym soup name of the “ESA-CFSA Integration Project.” 

 

Some of our Indigenous clients are saying that because the Endangered Species Act and the Crown Forest Sustainability Act have very different goals and priorities, a revised Crown Forest Sustainability Act will not give the attention and support needed to protect Indigenously valued species that are in a precarious state of survival.  

 

The Endangered Species Act, while not perfect, provides real protection to many Indigenously valued species. The Crown Forest Sustainability Act has a broad mandate for the sustainability of Crown forests and forestry operations in Ontario, taking into account a complex blend of social, economic and environmental factors. While the Crown Forest Sustainability Act does outline provisions for general conservation of biodiversity and ecological health, the Endangered Species Act is purely focused on protecting but promoting the recovery of species at risk.  

 

Many of our Indigenous clients are telling us that It is critical for the future health of species at risk in the province that this integration project is not another instance of pre-emptive and poorly researched policy change.

 

What's Next?

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will be posting their proposed revisions to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act on the Ontario Environmental Registry within the next couple months, with an opportunity for you to provide comments and outline how proposed changes will impact your community.

 

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will also be making a decision on how it plans to deal with forest carbon management, and whether or not Indignenous forest stewards will be able to generate extensive wealth from Indigenous offsets.

 

Stay tuned to our blog as we will providing  updates as new information appears and  consultation processes unfold.

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About Us - Shared Value Solutions Ltd.:

We are an Ontario B Corp, and we assist Indigenous communities, and Indigenous joint ventures and equity partnerships, with regulatory advice, negotiation and business strategy, relevant supporting studies, and technical reviews related to major development projects such as mines, hydroelectric facilities, transmission lines, highway expansions, oil and gas pipelines, and nuclear power.  We also assist “enlightened” industry proponents – companies that really understand and embrace their responsibility to the environment, community, and creating shared value with the people their operations affect. 

 

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