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Government must address Fire Risk for B.C. First Nations Communities

by NationTalk on February 8, 20081116 Views

February 7, 2008

OTTAWA – The Conservative government must act now to address the increased risk of forest fires threatening over 100 native communities in British Columbia due to massive pine beetle damage, Liberal critics for Indian Affairs and Natural Resources said today. “The infestation by the mountain pine beetle has left dead timber which poses a serious fire risk for First Nations communities that the Conservative government is ignoring,” said Indian Affairs Critic Anita Neville. “The Conservative government is ignoring the real risk of fire for these communities and their 100,000 residents. This incompetence is unacceptable.”

An infestation of mountain pine beetles is ravaging British Columbia’s forests and has already crossed into Alberta. Funding committed by the previous Liberal government to British Colombia to address the pine beetle infestation allowed B.C. First Nations to develop plans to build fire buffer zones around their communities. The Conservatives have ignored this important issue and B.C. First Nations are still waiting for assistance to protect their communities from forest fires.

“The Conservative record on addressing the pine beetle infestation is a litany of broken promises and another illustration of Minister Lunn’s incompetence,” said Natural Resources critic Omar Alghabra.

“The Conservative platform commitment of $1 billion dollars to address the mountain pine beetle infestation in British Colombia was shrunk to $200 million. It’s an embarrassment,’’ added Mr. Alghabra.

Following an agreement with the government of British Colombia, B.C. First Nations had access to a portion of the funding the federal Liberal government committed to fight the pine beetle infestation. Under the Conservative plan, B.C. First Nations are being ignored.

The B.C. First Nations Summit and First Nations Forestry Council have waited two years for a meeting with Conservative Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn to discuss the need for immediate action and funding.

“It is unacceptable that the Conservatives would wait two years to hear from First Nations communities most impacted by the pine beetle infestation. The Liberal Opposition urges the Conservative government to act quickly to abate the fire threat,” Ms Neville said.

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