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Logging protest at Collison Point

Husby crews lock up gear after group led by Old Massett Haida calls for end of logging at Collison

A number of Old Massett Haidas and supporters are calling for an end to logging at Collison Point / St’alaa Kun.

Boats carrying protesters and supplies starting making trips to Collison Point from Masset on Tuesday, March 13. The point is on the west side of Masset Sound, east of Sewall and north of Kumdis Island.

“We’re just tired of watching our forests and our future leave on every barge,” said Lisa White, spokesperson for the group, which has a Facebook page titled Haida Gwaii Land Protectors.

“It’s been happening my whole life, and then some — it’s been 100 years of clear-cutting and logging, and they’re leaving us with nothing.”

“It’s totally against how our Haida people treated the land, and it’s destroying our salmon rivers. We want it to stop.”

Duffy Edgars, chief councillor for Old Massett, says in all that time logging has done little for the village.

“I have watched log barges go out all my life with no benefits for our community,” said Edgars in a press release posted by the Haida Gwaii Land Protectors.

Old Massett has few jobs or homes for young people, Edgars said, and should not be struggling to build a community pool for its children.

White said the protest at Collison is not against any company in particular.

“It all looks the same to me,” she said.

Collison Point has been the main logging area for Husby Forest Products since 2011, when the Haida Gwaii Land Use Objectives Order set up new protected areas near the company’s earlier operations by Naden Harbour and Eden Lake.

Husby staff met with Old Massett councillors on Thursday, and crews have since collected their tools and locked up larger equipment at Collison.

No one from Husby was available for an interview by press time.

Speaking anonymously, a Husby forester said 80 per cent of company staff live on Haida Gwaii, and they stand by their forestry practices. As of December 2016, 54 of the company’s 67 employees lived on the islands.

A map shows the areas near Collison Point and Eden Lake where B.C.'s Forest Practices Board audited logging, silviculture, and fire protection work by Husby Forest Products from 2014 to 2016. Auditors concluded that Husby had followed B.C.'s Forest and Ranges Practices Act and Wildfire Act as well as the Haida Gwaii Land-Use Order, and other legal orders protecting northern goshawks and marbled murrelets. (Forest Practices Board)

An audit done in 2016 by B.C.’s Forest Practices Board found Husby’s logging, silviculture, and fire-protection work near Collison Point and Eden Lake for the two previous years met legal standards set by the province and the Haida Gwaii land-use order.

Auditors found that Husby identified, mapped, and protected culturally significant features such as yew, crabapple and monumental cedar trees; that it built forestry roads to stop sediment from getting into fish-bearing streams; and that it has a well-run silviculture program.

“These are good practices in a challenging area,” said Tim Ryan, then chair of the Forest Practices Board.

RELATED: Forestry audit finds Husby meets B.C., Haida Gwaii standards

However, Husby has been criticized by the Council of the Haida Nation for the amount of cedar it harvests at Collison Point.

In 2016, Husby responded in a letter to B.C.’s forests ministry that it logs as much hemlock and spruce as it can at Collison Point, but the area is about 60 per cent red cedar.

The company also said it plants over 80,000 red and yellow cedar each spring, and is working to re-establish new cedar stands — one of the requirements in the Haida Gwaii land-use order. The order also sets a limit on the amount of logging that can be done in any given watershed or sub-basin.

Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, was unavailable for an interview this week. But on Friday his office sent an email about the protest at Collison Point, saying senior ministry officials are working on a letter of understanding with the CHN.

“The Province is working with the Council of Haida Nation (CHN) and feels extremely proud of the work undertaken toward reconciliation by both provincial staff and the CHN,” said the email.

“Those involved in the occupation are not, to the Province’s knowledge, represented by the CHN, which means that negotiated resolution may be limited.”

The ministry says the letter of understanding will address some outstanding issues raised by the CHN, including the cedar harvest and the possibility of a moratorium on cedar. The letter will also discuss the planning process for provincial parks and protected areas on Haida Gwaii, and creating bilingual signs on the highway.

The ministry also says the overall economic health of Haida Gwaii needs to be a focused for everyone involved, and that the significance of current tenures for local jobs must be “recognized, understood, and allowed to move forward.”

Another outstanding issue is the so-called “partition” for logging cedar on Haida Gwaii.

In 2012, B.C.’s Chief Forester set a voluntary or “soft” limit on how much cedar should be cut each year from the timber harvesting land base on the islands (about 52 per cent of Haida Gwaii is in protected areas).

At the time, a report by the Deputy Chief Forester found the islands could afford to offer no more than 400,000 m3 of cedar a year — otherwise logging companies will soon run out of commercially available cedar, and go several decades before enough matures to start harvesting it again.

The CHN has said that Husby is harvesting cedar well above the “soft” limit. B.C.’s forests ministry says the limit has been followed in all but one major management area on Haida Gwaii.

In October 2017, acting on advice from the Haida Gwaii Management Council, the Chief Forester recommended a “hard,” or legally-binding cedar limit for Haida Gwaii.

The ministry is now considering whether the provincial government needs to pass an order-in-council to make it law.

“There’s no legal teeth, apparently, in that cedar partition,” said Lisa White. “In the meantime, they’re taking all our cedar.”

Asked about the Haida Gwaii land-use order, which the province says is among the strictest in B.C., White said it’s not working as she hoped.

“It’s supposed to be ecosystem-based management, but obviously that’s not what everyone would hoped would turn out. You just have to go driving on the logging roads to see,” she said. “I think industrial clear-cutting has to end here.”

As for the recent Forest Practices Board audit of Husby’s work, White said what passes in the forest industry doesn’t necessarily meet Haida laws and values.

“I think that we need to audit our forests with our own people, on the ground, and see for ourselves,” she said.

“Bureaucracy gets in the way of real stewardship. We feel like we’re going to get stuck in this bureaucracy so long, and in the meantime our forests are leaving.”