Haida and islands leaders are demanding that B.C. Timber Sales quit selling two cedar-leading stands from what will likely become the Haida Gwaii Community Forest.
But stuck hard in the middle is Port Clements, where councillors warn of imminent and devastating layoffs if other wood supply can’t be found for local logging companies.
“To me, it was really clear that was the intent of all this — to try and chip out Port Clements from supporting the CHN,” said Brigid Cumming, a Port Clements councillor, adding that in her opinion, the Council of the Haida Nation has been trying for months to come up with alternatives to the disputed cutblocks near Nadu Road and Lawn Hill, and it’s the province who isn’t listening.
“The province is supposed to have our back,” Cumming said.
“This is not the way to do it.”
For nearly a year, Haida and B.C. government representatives on the Solutions Table have disagreed over plans by BCTS to auction a series of cutblocks near Nadu Road and Lawn Hill.
Both sides agree the blocks meet the legal requirements set out in the Haida Gwaii Land Use Objectives Order — regulations that protect Haida cultural values as well as ecological, wildlife, riparian, hydrological, and timber values.
However, Haida and other islands leaders say the plans are unacceptable based on broader forestry issues.
Most important, they say, is that the Nadu and Lawn Hill blocks contain large, cedar-leading stands in an easily accessible area that is expected to become part of the Haida Gwaii Community Forest. The leaders want local control over how such areas are logged, and a greater return of the benefits to islands communities.
“It’s been 11 months, and there’s been no push from the province to implement any interim solutions,” said Trevor Russ, vice-president of the Haida Nation, speaking at an all-islands meeting held at the Tluu X̱aada Naay longhouse in Old Massett last Thursday.
“This is what we’ve come to — areas are being proposed to be logged in people’s backyards that could potentially be benefiting our communities.”
It is unusual for such plans to go “non-consensus” at the Solutions Table, but the Nadu/Lawn Hill dispute follows other recent disputes over logging blocks close to the New Town/Blue Jacket neighbourhood, where the Old Massett Village Council is concerned about potential flooding. The neighbourhood’s roads flooded badly during heavy rains last winter.
Although Old Massett and the CHN dispute the findings, the province approved the blocks after BCTS consulted a hydrologist who found the logging would not cause flooding problems.
According to the 2009 Kunst’aa Guu Kunst’aayah Reconciliation protocol that established the Solutions Table and Haida Gwaii Management Council co-managed by B.C. and the CHN, the province can still approve such plans over Haida Nation objections so long as they meet the land-use order. On five major issues, such as setting the annual allowable cut, decisions are bound to go through a shared process.
“That’s a higher-level issue that we’re trying to address from the Haida side of things,” Russ said.
“But in the medium-term, there’s no resolution when we’re operating in this kind of environment.”
While the CHN has also accused BCTS of harvesting cedar at unsustainable rates, the provincial agency recently presented charts at community meetings showing that averaged over five years, it has been following the chief forester’s voluntary limit on Haida Gwaii cedar. BCTS also pointed out that while its timber sales are open to the highest bidder, most of its sales on Haida Gwaii have gone to local contractors for the last decade.
Speaking at a snap meeting held before the all-islands meeting in Old Massett, Port Clements Councillor Doug Daugert said BCTS has a reputation for honest work in laying out blocks for logging.
However, given that the Nadu and Lawn Hill blocks are 41 and 49 per cent cedar, and have enough volume to make up two-thirds of what the Haida Gwaii Community Forest would cut in a year, Daugert said such “big money sales” are unacceptable in that area right now.
“I felt that it was an awfully big bite out of the pie that we’re being offered as a community,” he said.
As of press time Monday, all the elected islands leaders except the mayor of Port Clements had co-signed a letter to the Minister of Forests demanding that BCTS quit the Nadu and Lawn Hill sales, and immediately offer the long-awaited Haida Gwaii Community Forest with a two-year non-replaceable forest licence for the CHN to manage on behalf of the Misty Isles Economic Development Society, or MIEDS. MIEDS works on behalf of Masset, Port Clements, Queen Charlotte, and local areas of the regional district.
Port Clements council voted 3 to 1 to not sign an all-islands letter, and then voted to send their own. Councillors there worried about the layoffs the village might face if neither of the two timber sales goes ahead — the controversial sales are the first BCTS has offered in nine months, and both O’Brien & Fuerst and Infinity West, companies based in Port Clements, depend on such sales to keep going.
During the all-islands meeting in Old Massett, there was some talk of protest if the islands’ letter and a meeting this Tuesday between the CHN and Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson do not go well.
So far, the only signs on the ground are ones posted by the CHN near Nadu and Lawn Hill that say “Stop” and “No logging activity may proceed without written permission, or license issued by the Council of the Haida Nation.”
“The last resort is action,” said Peter Lantin, kil tlaats ‘gaa, president of the Haida Nation.
“I’ve been told in this position, that Haidas don’t throw around the threat of protest lightly.”
“Going back to Lyell Island, that led to Gwaii Haanas being established, the Gwaii Trust — it led to many, innovative, unique things,” Lantin added.
“But it’s rooted in conflict… We see that cycle happening again. There is a rising up of the communities demanding change.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Port Clements council first voted 3-1 against signing an all-islands letter, then voted again to send a letter of their own. One councillor felt Port Clements could have signed an all-islands letter, and sent a follow-up letter of its own.