Community forest idea stalls out

  • Apr. 25, 2003 3:00 p.m.

The province approved a community forest for the islands almost four years ago, but islanders have yet to see any benefit from it because the group of local officials in charge of the project hasn’t met since last year.
The community forest board stopped meeting last summer, after Skidegate and Old Massett said they would not attend any more meetings until there was a broader level of cooperation between the islands communities.
The situation today remains the same, said Art Lew, general manager of Haida Gwaii Community Futures, the organization which is spearheading development of the community forest.
“Currently we are trying to get the various parties together and build the will to get ahead with it,” Mr. Lew said. “There has been a concern by the two band councils that there wasn’t a true spirit of cooperation on the islands… We are going back to them now, trying to get this back on the rails.”
Ironically, back in 1999, Ministry of Forests officials cited the high level of cooperation between Haida and non-Haida communities here as the main reason that the islands were awarded one of the province’s first-ever community forests tenures.
There is a risk that the provincial government will take back its approval. Mr. Lew said government officials are keeping an eye on the situation and continue to press for progress.
“They consistently bring that up with me,” he said. “My hope is the province will go along with us as we try to build this consensus around the community forest.”
Meanwhile, consultants have finished working on an ecosystem based overview plan that outlines different options about how to harvest wood from the community forest, which is to be located in the Tlell River watershed.
The public will “absolutely” have a chance to read the plan and check out the different options for themselves once the board gets back together and the province reaffirms the tenure offer, Mr. Lew said.