Where has all the cedar gone?

Former Port Mayor Dale Lore asks the pressing question in new short film.

By Andrew Hudson

Haida Gwaii Observer



It’s a five-minute film with a decades-long story.

Dale Lore is the former mayor of Port Clements and an ex-logger whose 40 years in forestry ended after the 2005 Islands Spirit Rising blockade — one of many community efforts, including chairing the Islands Community Stability Initiative, that Lore joined to try and protect Haida Gwaii from unsustainable logging.

In Finding the Balance on Haida Gwaii, a short film playing on YouTube and at this weekend’s Haida Gwaii Film Festival, Lore says he knows the islands’ fight for better forestry has been long and hard, but it’s not done yet.

“The problem is not everyone seems to share this vision,” he says in the film, standing in a cut block by a pile of waste wood.

“If you look behind me, you’ll see the degradation we thought we’d solved with the Haida Gwaii land-use plan is continuing.”

Written and directed by biology student Colby McElrath, the film features several fly-over shots of weathered slash piles and ends with the question, “Where has all the cedar gone?”

Walking on another cutblock near the inlet where his son runs kayak tours, and the woods where he gathers wild mushrooms, Lore waved a hand at the scene — a small rock quarry, a newly built road, retention stands — and said he has no big complaints about how it was harvested.

“It’s always butt ugly,” said Lore.

“But in seven years, this will come back.”

Driving to another site, however, Lore pointed to what he said were wasted cedar tops and a new road lacking surface work and proper water flow.

“It’s so far behind where we were at in the ‘90s even.”

Haida Gwaii forestry still has several ways to improve, said Lore, including the number of jobs that go off-island.

But the key issue, he said, is the oldest one: over-harvesting cedar.

“All you really need on the big issue — cedar — is a little bit of common sense, and two eyes,” he said, noting how many of the trucks that roll down the highway are carrying cedar logs.

A 2013 report presented to the Haida Gwaii Management Council (HGMC) noted that while cedar makes up only a third of the timber on Haida Gwaii lands where logging is permitted, it made up as much as 52 per cent of the harvest between 2000 and 2011.

Co-led by representatives from the Haida and B.C. governments, the HGMC is responsible for setting the annual allowable cut on Haida Gwaii — a figure that has dropped from nearly 3 million to under 800,000 cubic metres of timber — and for making other strategic forestry decisions according to the Kunst’aa guu Kunsta’aayah Reconciliation Protocol.

Following direction from the HGMC, B.C.’s deputy chief forester suggested in 2012 that the total cedar harvest on Haida Gwaii be reduced to about 40 per cent.

But a year later, the report to the HGMC found that the total cedar harvest actually jumped that year.

Last spring, the HGMC convened a forum to develop a new forestry strategy for Haida Gwaii.

Lore was not at the table.

“I’ve played that game,” he said, adding that he spent many years working with others toward the current land-use plan, but good plans need monitoring and enforcement.

Lore said the point of his film is not to point fingers — whatever deficiencies remain, he said, it’s not the fault of the local worker, contractor, or small company.

Lore was also quick to say he has lived on both sides of the issue, and learned many lessons the hard way.

“When I started out in forestry, everybody I respected and loved told me we’d have trees forever — we couldn’t possibly cut them all down,” he said.

“The mistakes that burn you are the things that were true when they were told to you, and you didn’t revisit them.”