By Alex Rinfret–A group of loggers worried about the impact of cut reductions here say the voice of the “average working joe” is not being heard in negotiations between the provincial government and the Haida Nation.
The loggers have organized a group they call the Haida Gwaii Working Forest Action Group, with members from all over the islands. Skidegate resident Randy Tennant, one of the members, said the group believes the cut reductions demanded by the Haida Nation will cause enormous job losses, with a corresponding loss of population, endangering local schools, businesses and communities.
The action group says it wants to find a middle ground between the demands of industry and the Haida Nation, and says more attention must be paid to protecting local jobs.
Mr. Tennant, who works for Husby Forest Products, said he supports the Haida Nation in many ways and knows that something must be done to reconcile aboriginal title. He participated in the protest this spring which shut down logging roads and led to the negotiations now underway.
“I stood on the line with everybody and showed support,” he said this week. “I wasn’t supporting the fact we would be out of work… I feel like we were used.”
Mr. Tennant said he and other workers had no idea that the protest would affect more than Weyerhaeuser and would lead to negotiations that could curtail logging all over the islands.
“I didn’t realize that’s what we were standing up there for,” he said. “About half the people on the line didn’t have all the facts. The islands communities really need logging.”
Mr. Tennant said he doesn’t believe the logging companies should get whatever they want either.
“One side is extreme no logging, the other side wants to log, log, log,” he said. “There seems to be nobody representing us.”
According to the working forest action group, the CHN demands would reduce the harvest level in the Timber Supply Area to approximately 125,000 cubic metres, from the current level of 475,000.
But Mr. Tennant said that may not be enough to keep logging companies operating here, and said he’s worried they will simply leave because it is unfeasible to log a small amount.
Born and raised here, he said he has no intention of leaving, but he wants to see a future here for his two sons. Right now, he’s worried because he doesn’t see how jobs at Parks Canada or in the tourism industry can possibly replace the hundreds of good-paying logging jobs here.
Meanwhile, MLA Gary Coons said he also has questions about the role of the provincial government in the current negotiations and would like to see government officials providing more information to islanders about what is going on.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the government to open up,” he said. “It seems to me the only people who want to share information right now is the Haida Nation.”
Islanders have been calling his office asking about who exactly is representing them in the situation, Mr. Coons said, but so far, he has not been able to get any answers from the government.
Looking at the bigger picture, he said it’s obvious that there must be a more sustainable approach to logging all over coastal BC, with more trees being processed locally.
He said he is happy the government is finally talking to the Haida Nation: “It’s about time, it’s long overdue.”
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