North American lumber supplies and prices could be affected by a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada granting the Tsilhqot’in First Nation title claim on land in central British Columbia.
The decision, handed down June 26, gives the group exclusive right to determine how the land will be used as well as the exclusive right to reap the benefits from those uses. According to a report in the Vancouver Sun, analysts are predicting the impact of this decision on available lumber supplies and prices could reach that of the mountain pine beetle, which affected 53% of the pine in British Columbia.
The paper noted that RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Quinn said that over the last decade British Columbia was responsible for nearly 24% of North America’s lumber production and that any “delays and limitations” caused by the ruling could result in “a tighter lumber market and high prices.” Quinn also told the Sun that large companies such as Western Forest Products, Conifex Timber, Canfor Corp., West Fraser Timber and Interfor Corp. were most at risk because they do not have established logging partnerships with the First Nations.
The 30-year battle between the Tsilhqot’in Nation and the province of British Columbia was originally sparked when the province granted a commercial logging license in 1983 on land the Tsilhqot’in considered to be part of their traditional territory.
The Tsilhqot’in objected and tried to prevent commercial logging. After many talks the original land title was eventually amended to include a land claim for the Tsilhqot’in people. However, it was opposed by the federal and provincial governments. After several appeals the Supreme Court of Canada held that the Tsilhqot’in people “had established Aboriginal title to the claim area at issue.” And that the group’s claim was justified from its occupation and regular use of the land for hunting, fishing and other activities.