Tsay Keh Dene Nation leads Pulp Companies in a Landscape Initiative

This impact story was originally published by Earthworm here.

The Territory of Tsay Keh Dene Nation in north-central British Columbia, Canada, is a land of wild fish-filled rivers and snowy mountains, forests of grizzly bears and wolves, moose, caribou and elk, and summer meadows where berries are plentiful.

Ingenika River

However, the 3.2-million-hectare territory of the Tsay Keh Dene Nation, a culturally and linguistically Sekani First Nation, is significantly affected by industrial activities. This includes logging for pulp, paper and fibre-based packaging (PPP), as the province of British Columbia is divided into timber supply areas, and two span the Territory.

The land has been a source of wood pulp since the sixties but has provided physical and spiritual sustenance for the Tsay Keh Dene people since time immemorial. The Tsay Keh Dene continue to hunt for meat throughout the year and gather berries and roots when the snow retreats.

Tsay Keh Dene Nation recognises the economic value of logging but has clear expectations of how this work should be conducted. These expectations are derived from decades of scientific and traditional research and represent a stewardship model that is proactive and sustainable and respects Indigenous rights and land titles.

“Forest licensees are required to consult with Tsay Keh Dene Nation on forest harvest activities they are planning within the Territory, but this isn’t true free, prior and informed consent,” explained Robin Barr, Global Lead for Community and Indigenous Rights for Earthworm Foundation.

The Tsay Keh Dene people now struggle with food security as the animals they hunt are found in lower numbers than would historically have been available. Sabrina Dulude, a Tsay Keh Dene Citizen, explained, “The biggest impact of logging has to do with our food source. Moose is our biggest food source. When the companies are logging, it pushes them away.”

Much of their diet has been replaced with store-bought food, which must be driven to the remote community located eight hours from Prince George, British Columbia. The food is generally non-perishable – vegetables are scarce – and expensive due to the transport costs.

Since 2019 Tsay Keh Dene Nation has worked with Earthworm Foundation and its members, 3MMars and Nestlé, to establish a landscape initiative to protect High Conservation Value (HCV) forests and work towards consistently implementing Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). The initiative is one of 32 identified in nine countries in a May 2023 brief by the Tropical Forest Alliance, Proforest and CDP. (For further information, see the box below.)

Tsay Keh Dene Nation has created a Forest Stewardship Framework, which provides guidelines for logging companies operating in their Territory. The Nation established two protected areas within the Ingenika watershed, the Ingenika Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) and the Chuyaza Conservancy, and in 2022 conducted an HCV assessment within the Chuyaza Conservancy.

Mountains from Igenika

Multi-partner discussions take place quarterly, convened by Earthworm with Tsay Keh Dene Nation and supporting companies, and additional meetings take place between Tsay Keh Dene Nation and the provincial government. The supporting companies have agreed to support Tsay Keh Dene Nation in developing management plans for both the Ingenika IPCA and Chuyaza Conservancy – a provincial government requirement to progress recognition of these protected areas.

Two of three licence holders operating in the Tsay Keh Dene Nation’s territory, Dunkley Lumber and Conifex, have signed legally binding agreements stating they will not operate within the Ingenika IPCA and will respect the Forest Stewardship Framework. A third, Canfor, has not.

Additional funding could help secure a greater area of the Territory by allowing the Nation to establish more of the rules, guidelines and monitoring systems it needs. Some additional areas for protection identified by Nation citizens include “the Ospika watershed with its grizzly bears and moose; and Cree Lake, a hunting and trout fishing site,” said Dulude.

“I just want a place for a future for the kids. We worry about future generations – for the animals, the land itself, and the people of Tsay Keh. What is going to happen? What is it going to be like 50 years from now? Are we even going to be a Nation anymore?” said Dulude.

The Brief: Certification and Beyond: Companies Take Landscape Action for Pulp, Paper and Packaging Sustainability

The Pulp, Paper and Packaging (PPP) sector is one of the world’s largest industries – it was worth $354 billion in 2022[1] – and pulp and paper are manufactured globally, with the United States being the largest producer and Brazil, Canada, Indonesia and Russia among the top 10.

The pulp comes from both hardwood and softwood trees. Hardwood pulp is mostly from Latin America, Indonesia, the northern United States, southern Canada and some parts of Russia,[2] and softwood from conifers and evergreens in Europe’s Nordic countries, Russia, parts of Canada, and the southern United States.[3]

However, the industry is accompanied by environmental and social harm, including lost or degraded forests and peatland, reductions in water supply, conflict with communities, soil erosion, pollution and biodiversity loss. Since the 1980s, PPP companies have tried to tackle these through certification and, increasingly since 2016, through landscape initiatives.

Landscape initiatives require the long-term collaboration of all stakeholders within natural or social geography to define and achieve shared social, economic and environmental goals. If all stakeholders participate and agree on the vision, greater buy-in is achieved, and goals are more likely to be reached.

The May 2023 brief, Beyond Supply Chains: Pulp, Paper and Packaging Companies Take Landscape Action for Sustainability at Scale, attempts to build an understanding of the evolving business case for companies to engage at the landscape scale to achieve sustainable land use.

It identified at least 26 downstream and midstream companies supporting the initiatives. The downstream companies include 3M, Mars and Nestlé.

[1] Fortune Business Insights, 2023. “Pulp and paper market size, share & Covid-19 impact analysis by category and regional forecast, 2022–2029.”

[2] Dillen, J. R., S. Dillén and M. F. Hamza, 2016. “Pulp and paper: wood sources”. Reference module in Materials Science and Materials Engineering.

[3] Hardwood pulp accounts for 56% of the market, and softwood pulp 44%.

Ariel view of Chuyaza from a helicopter

Recommendations for Downstream and Integrated Companies Sourcing Pulp, Paper and Packaging (PPP)

  • Improve understanding of landscape approaches and their components, meaning multi-stakeholder collaboration, shared goals and action, and transparent reporting systems.
  • Bring more downstream companies to invest in landscape action in Pulp, Paper and Packaging (PPP). Few have done so, but PPP is a material commodity for many.
  • Increase collaboration across existing initiatives. Few landscape initiatives are supported by more than one company, but some initiatives overlap and are supported by different companies.
  • Engage greater numbers of rights holders and stakeholder groups. Multi-stakeholder engagement is essential for building shared goals, collaboration and local capacity.

Recommendations for All Stakeholders

  • Develop definitions and indicators of forest degradation and reliable monitoring systems. This informs landscape work and responses to the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR).
  • Bring neutral facilitators and conveners to accelerate progress. They play a strong role in building multi-stakeholder processes and developing a shared vision.
  • Enable companies’ landscape and jurisdictional engagement to contribute to corporate climate, nature and people goals. This would unlock significant funding.
  • Clarify claims and provide tools to monitor and report progress. This requires a publicly available monitoring system and shared progress metrics.
  • Explore closer engagement with governments. Governments have the capacity to tackle land-use challenges, particularly by integrating sustainability into public policy.

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