By Heidi Bevington
After meeting for 15 months, the land use planning forum has released a draft report outlining its recommendations for an islands land use plan.
The forum – made up of 27 people representing community, business and political interests – made recommendations in 17 areas related to ecosystem integrity, cultural values and community well being.
In some areas, like tourism, the forum reached agreement, but in other areas, like old growth forest and black bear protection, the forum suggested various options because members could not agree.
Forum members agreed on the importance of old growth forest, but not on how much to protect. Current regulations require protection of “13-19 percent of old forest ecosystems within each biogeoclimatic variant, in every landscape unit,” according to the report. The forum wants this amount increased. The first option is to protect a minimum of 20-percent of old growth forest, and the second is to protect a minimum of 70-percent.
The forum recommended increasing the amount of protected land, but again couldn’t reach consensus on what should be set aside. One option suggests setting aside only a portion of the Haida Protected Areas, but doesn’t specify which areas. The second option is more specific and sets aside 21 areas including Yakoun Lake, Kumdis Slough and the Gray Bay/Cumshewa Head area.
Watershed protection and black bear hunting were two other contentious areas where a number of options are presented for government-to-government negotiations between the Haida Nation and the province.
Timber resources are one area where the forum reached agreement and made clear recommendations. The intent of the recommendations is to improve communications between everyone with a stake in the forest industry and increase stability for the industry and islands communities in an ecologically sustainable way.
The forum recommends a more coordinated approach to harvesting non-timber forest products in order expand the industry’s potential in a sustainable way.
The tourism and recreation recommendations include adoption of the Heritage Tourism Strategy, recommendations for trail improvements, and a strategy for reducing conflict over sport fishing lodges.
The forum members have a little over a week to consider the draft report before meeting one more time at the end of February to make changes and give it final approval.
The Haida Nation and the province will use the recommendations to guide their negotiation of a land use plan for the islands.
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