An icy view across Skidegate Inlet from the public boat launch in Queen Charlotte. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Islanders asked to update list of protected scenic areas

Landscape planners to visit Skidegate, Masset, and Sandspit this weekend

Years after Teal Cedar spoiled Skidegate Narrows with a glaring clearcut, forestry planners hope to safeguard other scenic areas on Haida Gwaii.

“I want people to tell me which views they really value,” says Kristina Salin, a Whistler-based planner and landscape architect who is working with B.C.’s forests ministry and the Council of the Haida Nation to update Haida Gwaii’s “visual landscape inventory.”

“We’ll put those on maps and start doing fieldwork — that involves photographing, visiting the sites, looking at the existing visual quality there, and then mapping what is visible,” Salin said.

“I want people to get in touch with me however they can.”

This Saturday, Salin will visit Jags Beanstalk in Skidegate from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Masset Co-op from 4 to 6 p.m to gather public feedback on the inventory update. Salin will also visit the Sandspit Christmas Fair on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the community hall.

Haida Gwaii residents unable to meet Salin in person can also post comments to the online map at http://haidagwaiivli.civicomment.org/, or complete a paper survey available at the Queen Charlotte forestry office. Salin can also be reached directly by phone at 604-967-2907 or by email at info@kristinasalin.com.

Hired in September, Salin’s company, KSalin Land Planning, is only tasked to do a partial update — they are specifically mapping viewpoints from Haida Gwaii villages and along the highway corridor.

Even so, Salin said they will take suggestions for the other scenic areas to protect, and include those in a written report for future studies.

Since so much of the fieldwork is weather-dependent, Salin said it’s hard to know exactly when her team will be finished, but they plan to present a draft for public comment at a series of open houses this spring.

The update happens to come at a time when Haida Gwaii community leaders are in a dispute with the province over a series of cutblocks that B.C. Timber Sales has put up for bid along the highway near Nadu Road and Lawn Hill.

CHN leaders met with Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson to discuss the plans last Tuesday.

Speaking at a public meeting about the BCTS plans on Nov. 23, Haida Nation president Peter Lantin, kil tlaats’gaa, wondered why protecting scenic views along the highway wasn’t part of the Haida Gwaii land-use order done in 2009.

Salin said she isn’t familiar with how the land-use order came together, but Haida Gwaii’s visual landscape inventory dates back to 1990, and was last updated in 2005.

Asked about existing cutblocks along the highway — several of which were sold by BCTS but also include private lands and woodlots owned by Old Massett — Salin said it’s strange that so many have access roads that open straight out onto the highway.

“Normally there are rules for that, there is usually screening put in place,” she said, though the particular design is often left up to licensees.

Scenic landscape protections are typically concerned with views from a particular point, rather than a stretch of highway, Salin added. They typically protect panorama views like the ones seen from the beach at the Ḵay Centre, or from the deck outside the Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre — busy spots that get photographed hundreds of times a year, and are key to tourism.

“If you do a lot of alteration that isn’t well designed in any area like that, it can be quite jarring,” she said, especially in areas where people are looking at hill or mountain slopes from the foreshore.

While it comes during a time of rising concern over logging along the highway, what originally sparked the update was a pair of cutblocks that Teal Cedar logged on the north shore of Skidegate Narrows in 2009.

After complaints by the CHN’s stewardship director, B.C.’s Forest Practices Board finally reviewed the cutblocks in 2014 and found not only that one clearly broke the rules for protecting scenic areas, but that the district manager in the provincial forestry office had no legal power to stop the logging before it happened.

Acting on complaints by company’s own forester, the mayor of Queen Charlotte and others, the district manager did try and intervene in 2009, but Teal refused to co-operate and was permitted to go ahead because its forest stewardship plan was already approved. At one point, provincial foresters were reduced to using Google Maps to highlight the cutblocks in question, since Teal wouldn’t provide its own.

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