By Heidi Bevington–The South Moresby Forest Replacement Account committee won’t be able to distribute $600,000 in project funds until the spirit rising protest is over and the checkpoints come down.
The account is managed by an interim committee with federal, provincial and islands representatives. They were supposed to meet April 8-10 to decide which proposals would receive funding, but the province cancelled the meeting, said administrator John Farrell.
“The province has made it clear they will not participate in any proposal review sessions while the blockades remain in place,” Mr. Farrell said. “It’s an unfortunate situation. Several projects rely on a spring field season.”
SMFRA gives out money once a year. The process of distributing the money takes some time, because first the board must decide who will receive funds, and then contracts must be drawn up, said Mr. Farrell. At this point it is unclear when the process will begin.
One of the projects affected by the delay is the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society’s field season on East Limestone
The society applied to SMFRA for $25,000 in December, which is about a quarter of its annual budget. The money will pay for bird and introduced species research, said administrator Greg Martin.
The society’s field season begins April 29 and “we have to go ahead. Nature will not wait,” said Mr. Martin. “We have enough of a budget in place to start the field season. We’ll start the work and operate on faith.”
Raoul Wiart, the federal representative on the board, said, “We would like to see this dealt with and move forward.” He doesn’t foresee a time when the SMFRA board would start distributing money without the province. “We’ve had a good partnership over the years and we hope the province and Haida resolve their differences so we can do it together.”
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