What do islanders think of the current proposal for a Haida Gwaii Community Forest?
Just before Christmas, the province invited the Misty Isles Economic Development Society (MIEDS) to apply for an area-based community forest.
Unlike a typical community forest in B.C., there is a condition that for the first 55,000 m3 logged each year, contracts will go through BC Timber Sales — a provincial agency — and the revenues split 50/50.
Based on current projections for the area, the community forest can expect to manage up to about 25,000 m3 more on its own, although that number may decline after a new timber-supply review is finished later this year.
“This is an opportunity that’s been a long time coming, and we want to do it well,” says Janine North, executive director for MIEDS. Chaired by Masset Mayor Andrew Merilees, the society represents the villages of Masset, Port Clements, and Queen Charlotte, plus Sandspit, Tlell, Tow Hill and other rural areas that are part of the North Coast Regional District.
North is touring Haida Gwaii coffee shops and council chambers over the next two weeks to hold 19 public-feedback meetings about the community forest, and will also gather comments at firstname.lastname@example.org until Feb. 28. MIEDS has also set up a website for the community forest at haidagwaiicommunityforest.com.
While MIEDS currently has until April 15 to answer the province’s invitation, North said that deadline could be extended.
“I’m not sure we’ll have all the public consultation done by the deadline,” she said, speaking to Queen Charlotte council on Monday.
“It’s more important that we do this right, that we include people and involve them.”
At this point, North said the society is mainly looking for islanders’ high-level concerns, such as whether MIEDS should accept the current proposal or keep negotiating, and what principles should guide management of a community forest. Site-level planning would be done at a later stage.
Still, North suggested to Queen Charlotte council that people in Queen Charlotte and Skidegate may be particularly concerned about the steep, forested, and creek-lined slopes behind both villages, ares that part of the community forest proposal.
“Really think about your backyard,” she said.
Writing to provincial officials in January, Andrew Merilees said MIEDS remains concerned about the 50/50 revenue split with BCTS, but welcomed the idea of awarding a short-term, transitional tenure of 80,000 m3 to the Council of the Haida Nation that the CHN would manage on MIEDS’ behalf until a community forest is up and running.
Provincial staff have said that could take about two years.
Along with reaching an agreement with MIEDS, the province will consult the Haida Nation on the proposal, according to the Kunsta’aa guu – Kunst’aayah Reconciliation Protocol. MIEDS is also contracting a forester to review the timber-supply modelling for the proposed area.
Speaking at a recent council meeting, Port Clements Mayor Urs Thomas echoed Merilees’ concerns about the 50/50 revenue split with BC Timber Sales.
“Back in earlier discussions, people were hoping there would be a higher percentage, even up to 100 per cent,” Thomas said.
“Unfortunately, the government is quite strict on the 50 per cent at the moment.”
Councillor Doug Daugert noted that if it goes ahead, the community forest plan will also be reviewed by the local B.C. forestry office, the province’s regional forestry director, BC Timber Sales, and the Chief Forester.
“It’s a very labyrinthian process that they have described,” he said.
“There are some good things about it, and a whole lot of difficult things because as things get more complicated there are more things that can go wrong… It’s not going to be fast, and it’s not going to be easy.”