Islanders want a community forest, but not the one the province has suggested so far.
That is the upshot of a letter sent to B.C.’s forests ministry from the Misty Isles Economic Development Society (MIEDS) on March 29.
The five-page letter asks the province to extend the deadline for negotiating a Haida Gwaii Community Forest, both to allow for more discussion and to wait for new, more accurate forest inventory data from the Timber Supply Review expected later this year.
Back in December, the province sent MIEDS an invitation to apply for a community forest tenure that required 50/50 revenue sharing with BC Timber Sales for most of its annual cut. For an area-based tenure expected to yield about 80,000 m3 a year, 55,000 m3 would have to be auctioned through BCTS.
After nearly two dozen informal meetings with people across Haida Gwaii, MIEDS staff found strong support for a community forest, but not on those terms.
“We are hopeful that discussions will enable an invitation more aligned with community aspirations and needs,” says the letter, which is signed by Andrew Merilees, the mayor of Masset and chair of the MIEDS board. The society also represents Port Clements, Queen Charlotte, Sandspit, and rural Graham Island.
The letter lists 11 reasons for MIEDS’ response, beginning with a desire to switch from barging logs off-island to creating local, value-added forestry jobs.
“Employment is more valued by island residents than revenue sharing with BCTS,” the letter says.
The letter also says the 50/50 revenue split and guarantee of 55,000 m3 auctioned through BCTS is “unacceptable.”
“BC Timber Sales has seriously damaged its social licence on Haida Gwaii and is not regarded by many of the public as a partner of choice for the community forest,” it says.
Other concerns include a lack of road-accessible cutblocks in the short to mid-term, insufficient inventory data, lack of real negotiation with the province, and an uncertain response from the Council of the Haida Nation regarding the idea of having the CHN oversee an interim tenure during the two years it could take to get a community forest started.
Some islanders said they would prefer a series of community-held woodlots rather than a community forest, while others suggested the community forest tenure area should be taken from all forest licensees on island, rather than having it come entirely from the Timber Supply Area.
Besides those general concerns, islanders raised a number of specific issues, such as the desire for a hiking trail between Spirit Lake and Crabapple Creek, timber sales smaller than 5,000 m3, revenue to maintain the road to Gray Bay, a higher-elevation tsunami evacuation route south of Masset, and recognizing Haida rights and title.
Several people also suggested using the community forest to study “the economic feasibility and ecological benefits of single-tree selection as well as smaller harvest openings, and greater retention of forest attributes.”