No logging in culturally modified forest, says CHN

  • Mon Jul 19th, 2004 5:00pm
  • News

By Heidi Bevington-The Council of the Haida Nation says there is no way that Husby Forest Products will log four Naden Harbour area cut blocks containing culturally modified trees.
“Our decision is that there’s not going to be logging,” says CHN president Guujaaw. “Any of these places where the old people worked are sites held sacred to the Haida. In those sites in the living forest you can see the handiwork of our people and see the same sights they saw.”
Husby received permission from Ministry of Forests to log the four disputed blocks in May, but only after taking the Ministry to court. However, it has not yet started logging, and Husby vice-president Bob Brash said it will hold off while negotiating with the CHN.
The province’s Heritage Branch approved Husby’s original logging application, which included cutting culturally modified trees, but acting district forest manager Cal Ross refused permission in August 2003.
Husby challenged the decision, and the BC Supreme Court referred the case back to Mr. Ross for reconsideration, asking that he consult with the Haida Nation to clarify what rights would be infringed by the logging proposal.
Mr. Ross met with Husby and the CHN in March 2004 to clarify how the logging operation would infringe on Haida rights. As well as a face-to-face meeting, Mr. Ross received three letters from the CHN detailing their reasons for wanting the area left alone.
However, Mr. Ross approved three of the four blocks Husby wanted to log after the company amended the proposals to lessen their impact on archeological sites and culturally modified trees.
The CHN argues that the issues isn’t about protecting particular trees but rather the forest as a whole and reject Mr. Ross’s decision. The forest is a living archeological site and the workplace of our ancestors, said Guujaaw.
“Calvin’s decision is not the final word on anything. He’s not going to play God with our culture,” Guujaaw said.
“These sites are considered sacred to the Haida Nation, that this site contains cedar of cultural quality which has become rare,” CHN representative Alan Wilson told the land use planning table last month. “In other sites where logging was allowed in close proximity to the features the winds have blown down the trees and destroyed the sites.”
The CHN is talking with Husby about this and broader issues, said Guujaaw. “In the end we want to know who out of the industrialists on the islands we can work with,” he said.
Husby vice-president Bob Brash said, “negotiations are ongoing. The CHN and Husby have met,” but would not elaborate any further. The company did some logging in the process of road construction in the disputed area a few months ago, but at the request of the CHN has stopped for now, he said.
Husby is a privately owned logging company which has operated for 19 years on the islands. It employs about 120 people when the camp is operating, with additional people working seasonally, said Mr. Brash.
Neither Mr. Brash nor Guujaaw wanted to give any details about what is being negotiated or how long the talks might go on.
A culturally modified tree is one that shows evidence of Haida use. “It could refer to a tree that the Haida tested before cutting down for canoes or poles. They would make a hole into the core of the tree to judge the extent of the rot,” said Nathalie Macfarlane, Haida Gwaii Museum director. Other trees have a long scar where bark was stripped from the tree she said.
Some of the Naden Harbour CMTs show evidence of planking, the relatively rare practice of taking planks from living cedars without killing the whole tree said Guujaaw in a letter to Mr. Ross.
In 1996 the ministry, CHN and major licensees created a set of guidelines for the management of culturally modified trees on the islands to protect them with buffers. “Although optional, most licensees followed the guidelines for a number of years, which resulted in virtually all identified CMTs being fully protected by means of buffers. For the most part, there have not been previous applications to seek alteration permits to harvest CMTs,” said Mr. Ross in his decision rationale.
The problem of CMT logging is being felt elsewhere as well, Guujaaw said.
“The Heritage Branch is charged with looking after archeological sites and they’re the ones who are approving,” he said. A site on the Skeena River with 800 CMTs in Tsimshian territory has been approved for logging. It is a “deliberate effort to get rid of signs of our culture,” he said.