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  • Writer's pictureVaagen Fibre Canada

Vaagen Partner Spotlight: Vern Louie of Osoyoos Indian Band

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

Community involvement and guidance from the local First Nations is crucial for Vaagen and as such, having a partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band has proved to be extremely valuable for the company, community, and the Band.

Peter Flett, Forester with Vaagen Fibre Canada, has been working closely with the Band, through their forestry manager, Vern Louie.

“Vern has been a great bridge for us with the community. As a forestry company, it is important for us to understand the values and traditions of the land. The expertise Vern brings to us, makes it an extremely meaningful partnership.”

This month, we would like to shine the Vaagen Partner Spotlight on the Osoyoos Indian Band, a First Nations Band located in the South Okanagan Valley. Vern Louie, the forestry manager for the Band-owned Nk’Mip Forestry LLP, has been using his knowledge and expertise of forests and partnership with Vaagen to bridge any gaps between the Nation and the company.

“The partnership is really important, not just for our Band but other Bands too. Traditionally, many major companies have been on other Bands’ territories where they have taken wood from traditional land. They aren’t partnering with their local Band where they should be. Vaagen is a perfect example of how it can work in a positive manner,” said Louie.

Roughly seven years back, Louie took the vacant position of forestry manager with the help of Vaagen’s Peter Flett and Dan Macmaster, along with a few other stakeholders, and since then, he has acquired the BC Forest Safety Council SAFE-certification for the forestry company, provided forestry training for Band members, and helped to improve the overall health of the forest.

“Vaagen has never seen things from the lens of money. They always look at things from the Band’s perspective. For me, it is great! They are always working with me and helping with the management aspects,” Louie said.

Vaagen and the Osoyoos Indian Band have worked on several projects together, from restoration plans to wildfire risk reduction projects and landscape resiliency work.

“It has been an exceptional partnership! Folks at Vaagen are always willing to offer training and plenty of employment opportunities to our members. They also help us stay compliant with our forestry blocks and aid in keeping the forest managed sustainably, where we prioritize water, wildlife, and habitat values,” said Louie, adding, “They are small, but they are pretty big when it comes to caring for the surrounding communities and doing things differently.”

Just like Vaagen, the Band also plays a huge role when it comes to caring for the forest. One of the Band’s beliefs, which Louie feels very passionately about, is to reintroduce traditional methods with current forestry activities, such as prescribed, controlled burns that are essential to maintain the health of the forest and reduce wildfire risk. Vaagen, as well as the West Boundary Community Forest, share this passion and have been involved with multiple controlled burns in the region.

“I want to bring awareness to how important fire is. People are afraid of fire but when done in a proper, controlled manner, fire has the power to revive and restore ecosystem balance,” Louie said. “I hope to bring the traditional practices back to the land and help rejuvenate the forest.”

Thank you, Vern, and the members of the Osoyoos Indian Band, for guiding the return to traditional practices and for your holistic stewardship of the land.

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