Rebecca Kelli, My Cariboo Now

The Federal Minister of Natural Resources was in Williams Lake today following up on a multi-year, $321,500 investment in two indigenous forestry projects.

“The two projects that we have funded has created a training opportunity for indigenous peoples to help them develop their business skills as well do the monitoring on the environment and safety issues, and build that capacity to actually participate in the economy and the forestry sector,” said Amarjeet Sohi.

“It is a very important sector for us and it’s a very important sector for communities. That’s why we’re here to support it.”

The first investment of $173,500 helped the Yunesit’in Government support and complete the business plan of an indigenous-owned milling operation, in partnership with Tolko Industries, and the Cariboo-Chilcotin Aboriginal Training Employment Centre, which Sohi said produced more than 80,000 board feet of lumber to build homes and bridges.

“This has been a long time coming with industry doing lots of the harvesting and the resource removal from our caretaker areas. We wanted to see more dollars staying within our communities, and we wanted to manage our forests while protecting our lands and also to mill our timber putting quality wood products back into our community, housing, and a good feeling,” said Yunesit’in band councillor Gabe Pukacz.

“There were two NARCAN funding projects over two years with partners like Tolko getting us organized with our operation known as Forest to Frame. Our Forest to Frame starts with us on the ground, from identifying the layout of timber, a small-scale logging operation, milling and marketing the lumber from our own portable sawmill, and wood products for building materials in homes and other projects in our community.”

The second investment of $148,000 helped train Esk’etemc First Nation community members in forest management, environmental monitoring business development, and safety and first aid to support the community’s forestry-based economic development.

“The success that we’ve had in our community is shown with our young people stepping forward and taking a lead role in a lot of the work that we’re doing and into the future,” Esk’etemc Chief Fred Robbins said.

Both projects were funded by the Indigenous Forestry Initiative that is part government’s Softwood Lumber Action Plan, which offers opportunities and direct funding to Indigenous communities that rely on forests for their livelihood.

Sohi was in Kelowna on Monday and also met with a number of other indigenous communities.

He will be in Williams Lake today for a number of other meetings before heading to Vancouver for further announcements.

“I’m spending four days in British Columbia meeting with indigenous leaders, meeting with mayors, and other folks in industry and government to see how we can work together.”

– with files from Rebecca Kelli, My Cariboo Now