The Council of the Haida Nation and the province have started work on a new land use plan for the islands, which will guide land use decisions until the Haida land claim is settled.
This plan will be an ‘interim’ arrangement to ensure the Haida Nation has input into land use planning, and ensure that Haida values are accommodated, says CHN vice-president Gilbert Parnell.
“We expect this process will result in a change in how the land is used and managed as well as who uses and manages it,” Mr. Parnell said.
CHN and provincial representatives held meetings in six islands communities last week that included a 45-minute presentation by process coordinator Leah Malkinson of the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management.
The land use plan will cover all crown land, except parks and land within municipal boundaries, said Ms Malkinson. The plan will divide the islands into land use zones, and describe the characteristics and values of each zone. The final document will be used for decisions about how resources in each zone will be managed.
These decisions will be made by a 10 to 15 member community planning forum, including representatives of various government and stakeholders from groups like forestry, tourism and conservation. The process will be co-chaired by Mr. Parnell, representing the CHN, and regional district director Carol Kulesha, representing the province. Gary Reay of the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management originally represented the province. However, the CHN wanted local government representatives included. After the CHN, the province and local governments met, it was agreed Ms Kulesha would co-chair the community planning forum.
The CHN and the province have signed a framework agreement to guide the land use planning process, said Ms Malkinson. The agreement lays out principles of negotiation that include accommodation of Haida values, inclusion of islands interest groups and a commitment to ecosystem based management practices. This framework will guide the next step in the process, which is the creation of a land use document. Goals of the planning process include protection of ecosystems, maintenance of cultural and spiritual values and creation of economic stability.
Ms Malkinson took some time to explain what participation in the forum will involve. Interested people must first apply, she said. If more than one person from a stakeholder group applies, then the province and the CHN will choose the person whom they believe best represents that group. Forum members must be willing to commit to three to five days work per month. Forum members will not be compensated, but they may seek funding from the people they represent, she said.
At the Masset meeting, David Loewen asked if there would be a 50/50 split between Haida and non-Haida representatives. Mr. Parnell said that is not a concern of the CHN. “The Haida co-designed and will co-manage the process. Our values will be present throughout the process and we are confident that the nominating process will bring forward good people,” he said.
Gudrun Dreher, who attended the Skidegate meeting, said she saw an imbalance between representation of industrial and non-industrial values at the forum table. Ms Kulesha said the process was collaborative and members would make decisions by consensus, so every person’s voice would be heard and no one group could dominate.
Jacques Morin asked what guarantees volunteers had that the process would not drag on for six years. Ms Malkinson told him the province and the CHN are committed to keeping the process on schedule. Mr. Parnell added that the CHN and the province will negotiate any outstanding issues the forum members can not agree on in the 15 month planning process.
Two technical teams will support the forum, said Ms Malkinson. The process technical team will provide essential information such as maps of existing resources. The coast information team is an independent group who will provide the forum with books, maps and graphs to help them understand what ecosystem based land management is and how it could be practiced on the islands. Ecosystem based management is a scientifically based system of forest practices that tries to balance healthy ecosystems with healthy communities, she explained.
If you’re interested in being part of the planinng forum, you can get an application form from Kim Lewis at 626-5252 or Leah Malkinson at 559-4768. Deadline for applying is April 22, and forum members will be chosen by May. Work on the plan is supposed to begin in June.
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