Flight over Graham Island reveals disturbing scene

Fishing lodge owner Rick Grange got a shock in July when he happened to fly over recent logging in the centre of Graham Island.

Georgia Bennett

Fishing lodge owner Rick Grange got a shock in July when he happened to fly over recent logging in the centre of Graham Island.

Co-owner of the West Coast Fishing Club, Grange is no stranger to Haida Gwaii skies.

Since 2006, he has made regular flights between lodges on Langara Island and at Port Louis, but until July he always chose a coastal route rather than fly above the forests north and west of Masset Inlet.

“When I came over the ridge and saw what was happening, I just about cried,” he says.

“I didn’t believe the devastation that I was seeing.”

What concerns Grange most about the recent logging on Graham is how it might affect the Yakoun River and its watershed.

Last fall, Grange and community leaders from Old Massett started the Friends of the Yakoun a non-profit society that mainly aims to improve fish habitat.

“We realized that the Yakoun is probably the most important river system here on the north end,” said Grange.

“Not only is it the only Spring salmon river, it’s a major source of food for sockeye, coho, everything for the village.”

The effort follows a similar, years-long project that saw Grange and others raise $800,000 for fish ladders and new, higher culverts that allow Coho fry to access the full length of spawning creeks between Masset and Port Clements.

After his own eye-opening flyover in July, Grange organized a helicopter flight last Thursday for several Old Massett and Council of the Haida Nation leaders, including Haida Nation President Peter Lantin (kil tlaats’gaa).

Starting at Masset airport, the helicopter flew west to Naden Harbour, then south over Eden and Ian Lakes, Masset Inlet, and the Yakoun before going back up just east of Highway 16.

Several people on board said they were disturbed by what they saw, especially how close some of the logging appeared to lakes and creeks.

Grange said he hopes to see more public pressure on the islands’ forestry companies and B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, not only to safeguard such key fish habitats, but also to show that after years of land-use planning, Haida Gwaii’s cedar stands are finally being harvested sustainably.

“We are in trouble,” said Grange.

“No wood and no fish—that doesn’t sound like a good situation for this place to be.”