Vancouver Island MLA Josie Osborne has been appointed as minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship and the minister responsible for Fisheries by Premier John Horgan.
"The new ministry for land stewardship reflects the fact that natural resources are foundational to our province and they are the backbone of many local economies," Horgan said in a release.
Since 2017, the B.C. government said it’s been working on three broad land and resource management goals: reconciliation with Indigenous nations, environmental sustainability, and economic activity.
Over the last year, the Lands and Natural Resource Operations Secretariat’s organizational effectiveness review showed that to keep making progress, changes to how ministries work and are organized needs to take place.
The move is a “necessary and natural evolution” of resource management, the government said.
“Osborne will work with First Nations, local communities and industry to build a vision for land and resource management that will embrace shared decision-making on the land base and to build certainty and create further opportunity for everyone,” the office of the premier wrote in a release.
The ministry will be responsible for developing a path forward with First Nations to create a co-management system of B.C.’s land and resources.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Natural Resources Manager Saya Masso said he looks at the new ministry with “hope.”
“[Resource] decisions shouldn't be made in a vacuum,” said Masso. “They should be made with sustainability and with the interests of the people who are going to be inheriting those lands in mind.”
Masso said there needs to be an uptake from the new ministry in engaging nations on their land visions to identify how they can symbiotically work with the province’s expressed land vision.
“When nations look at their territories, they're looking at their kingdom,” he said. “How many old growth trees do I have left? Do these forests produce clean water? Do they produce salmon runs? Do we have clam beds? All of those [resources should be] managed together – as one decision.”
Osborne said the new ministry will work in partnership with First Nations to create a new vision for how land in B.C. is used.
Before being elected MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim in 2020, Osborne served as the mayor of Tofino from 2013 to 2020. She moved to Tofino over 20 years ago to work as a fisheries biologist for the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
During the coming weeks, Osborne said she’s beginning to engage with First Nations partners to lay the groundwork “for the important work ahead” in lead up to the new ministry’s official start on April 1.
The fisheries, aquaculture and wild salmon files will be moved under the new ministry and Fin Donnelly, parliamentary secretary for fisheries and aquaculture, has been appointed to work with Osborne.
Through “inclusive processes,” the ministry will also be responsible for strengthening the province’s commitment to land-use policy and planning so that investors, communities and First Nations are provided clarity about social choice on the land base.
"Minister Josie Osborne's experience and skill will help government bring more predictability to the land base, while protecting B.C.'s natural heritage and ensuring the benefits are shared more widely now and in the future,” said Horgan.