Historic land use agreement for islands signed Wednesday

  • Wed Dec 12th, 2007 7:00am
  • News

It came after years of talking, after the Islands Spirit blockade almost three years ago, after a year of on-again off-again talks, then even after another six months of negotiating following last May’s agreement in principle. But Wednesday in Vancouver, it did come. About 100 people turned out just before noon to witness what several people called an historic event, the signing-finally-of a land use agreement for the islands. Council of the Haida Nation President Guujaaw signed for the CHN and Premier Gordon Campbell signed on behalf of the province. Premier Campbell called it an historic milestone and an important first step, not the end but a beginning built on respect and reconciliation. “The Haida have a strong sense of what they have to offer the world, what they can do in the world. We are talking about building a foundation of trust. It takes time, it takes mutual commitment,” Mr. Campbell said, The agreement “… is a significant contribution to the future and to the sustainable future.” “I believe that this is a plan that helps create the future you want, you the Haida First Nation,” the Premier said. He also praised Guujaaw as a “true leader with a strong vision of the future.” “The struggles of the Haida Nation represent what is going on around the world, Guujaaw said, “People have said ‘you can’t treat the land that way, it will come back upon us’. It is no longer just the trouble for the indigenous peoples, but for all of us.” “I hope that what we are doing today will help reverse these trends,” Guujaaw said. He also said Premier Campbell’s government has done an about-face. “This is not the Campbell we knew when he got into power…He has changed. His government has changed.” Lands Minister Pat Bell said the agreement is about developing collaboration and Chief Allan Wilson from Old Massett said “This is cool…Haida Gwaii is getting more powerful. I can feel it.”Highlights of the agreement are as follows:The annual cut will be at least 800,000 cubic metres per year to ensure continuation of sustainable forestry operations. New protected areas will reflect ecological, cultural conservation, spiritual and recreation purposes totaling 254,000 hectares to be managed with the province. These new areas equal just over 25-percent of the islands. When other existing protected areas, such as Gwaii Haanas and Naikoon Provincial Park are added in, the total area protected amounts to about half the islands.Logging will not be allowed in special value areas, which include nesting habitat for goshawks, saw-whet owls, and great blue heron.In areas where logging is allowed, it will be subject to and ecosystem-based management regime.Ecosystem-based management objectives for forestry will be further refined through detailed planning before being legally established as requirements for logging.A number of key implementation steps will occur in the next two years, including more detailed forestry planning to address cedar values, coastal zone planning and protected area management planning.Attending the signing were Guujaaw, CHN V-P Arnie Bellis, Dempsey Collinson, Robert Mills, Harold Yeltatzie, Reno Russ, Allan Wilson and numerous others from the islands including John Broadhead and Leslie Johnson. Ian Hetman represented the regional district and Gladys Noddin QC village council. David Suzuki was there, as was Vicki Husband, Rick Bourne, Rick Grange, and Mike Burns to give a cross sample of those who turned out. On the government side, Lands Minister Pat Bell and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mike DeJong attended along with a contingent of civil servants. There will be a big feast on the islands celebrating the agreement in January, date not yet set, which will be attended by Premier Campbell and other ministers. For a complete report including numerous photos, see the Observer on December 20.