Each year, alumni UBC recognizes outstanding alumni across all faculties who have enriched the lives of others and significantly contributed to the University of British Columbia. In 2019, the Faculty of Forestry nominated Matt Wealick, BSF 2001, RPF, for the Alumni Builder Award in recognition of his strong engagement and support of the Faculty and contributions to First Nations forestry issues.
Matt has maintained a strong and deep connection to the Faculty since graduation, most recently as co-chair of the First Nations Council of Advisors. He also serves as a Board Member and Chair of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee for the Truck Loggers Association.
As a Sto:lo person and a member of the Tzeachten First Nation of the Chillwack Valley, Matt’s career has increasingly focused on First Nations forestry over the years. “When I started at UBC I came from an industry background as an everyday forester, with no idea what First Nations forestry was about,” he says. “There were only 10 or 12 aboriginal students in the faculty at that time. Now it’s quite a bit different of course.”
After graduating from UBC Matt went on to receive a Master of Science in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University and received his RPF designation. He built his career gradually, first as a planning and operations forester, then as an engineering supervisor and then as an operations manager.
After returning to Chilliwack in 2005, Matt was appointed manager of the Ts’elxwéyeqw Forestry Limited Partnership, giving him the opportunity to build a forest company from the ground up. Not only did Matt manage every conventional aspect of the business, he worked in areas that are specific to First Nations forestry, like rights and title, traditional and cultural use, and capacity building.
When the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe reorganized its corporate structure to create a management company, Matt became the Chief Operating Officer, overseeing six businesses and managing five forest licenses.
In 2013, Matt received an Aboriginal Business Award for the Joint Venture Business of the Year, for his work at Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribal Management.
In 2017, Matt established his own consulting company called Spa:th Strategies. His business focuses on providing unique solutions to the challenges of managing First Nations forest tenures.
“I’m using everything I have learned up until now to help First Nations successfully incorporate their cultural values into their management plans,” he says. “For example, if you take a sanctuary area in a forest, the objective is peace and tranquility. So how do we manage the cut allowance to ensure that we meet the objectives for wildlife preservation, fisheries management, and aboriginal spiritual values? This can be done in a way that’s congruent with provincial government plans.”
Matt also gives his time as a volunteer to First Nations communities, serving on two Tzeachten committees and the Operating Board for the Heiltsuk Nation.
Matt’s message to current and future UBC Forestry students is clear: “This is a prime time for First Nations students to be involved in forestry, especially with the education you get from UBC. The industry is crying out for people who have an aboriginal background and know what their community’s needs are; they are valuable to industry and government,” he says. “There’s lots of work in the forest industry and natural resource management, so stick with it and push through. It will benefit us all in the end.”