Haida land use vision key part of future, planners hear

  • Feb. 6, 2004 3:00 p.m.

By Heidi Bevington–“How do you derive a living from these islands without wrecking them?”
Guujaaw, president of the Council of the Haida Nation asked this question at Friday’s meeting of the Land Use Planning Process when he tabled the first part of the Haida land use vision.
The needs of the economy, culture and the environment can be balanced, but not the way things are being done now, said Guujaaw. The Haida land use vision is an attempt to strike a balance that meets the needs of islanders.
Guujaaw began his presentation with a short film demonstrating the scope and speed of logging on the islands from 1901 to 1999. Until World War Two, logging made very little dent on the islands, but after the war, it accelerated and peaked in the mid-80s with clear cuts spreading over much of north Moresby Island and the central core of Graham Island. Logging began to slow down when public pressure and the economics of that pressure began to be felt, and with legislation like the Forest Practices Code, he said.
“Our people have tried to deal with logging,” said Guujaaw, who recalled his own father working in the industry. At one time the Haida people had close ties with the logging community and worked in the bush, but when unions came, the people had to decide between logging and fishing, and most chose fishing, he said.
The forum members received the first part of the land use vision-six maps illustrating the condition of the land today. A written document will follow before the next forum meeting. said Guujaaw. Map 1 shows the Haida Protected Areas including Gwaii Haanas, Duu Guusd and smaller areas set aside until after the title case is settled.
Map 2 shows analyses the logging and protection of cedar. Guujaaw explained that at one time companies had a tremendous desire to extract cedar because of its high value. Logging not only took down large stands of old growth cedar, but logging practices didn’t protect archeological sites like the places where old canoes had been carved. Many of the old canoe sites have been destroyed, said Guujaaw. The Haida tried to create buffer zones to protect them, but got little cooperation, so they have established cultural cedar areas to protect archeological sites. In addition, the Haida want standing old growth cedar protected. ” “Second growth is no good to us,” said Guujaaw, “the quality of the cedar is not adequate for cultural use.” And the second growth cedar is being grown quickly as a crop to be harvested.
Maps 3 and 4 detail major salmon runs and riparian areas that need to be protected. Part of the forum’s mandate is to figure out what is the best course for restoration, said Guujaaw, which may take intensive work and patience.
“Even five years ago there was money on the islands to restore ecosystems,” said Guujaaw, but that funding has disappeared. “Part of our lawsuit with the Government of Canada is to sue them for damages for the value of the resource and the restoration of the land.” To return the ecosystem to its original condition would probably take a thousand years, he said, but the damage to the watersheds can be reduced now. Streams need protection, and the depth of that protection varies from stream to stream, but “the creeks are not being given the kind of protection they need,” he said.
Map 5 looks at bear, bird and plant habitat and Map 6 looks more closely at bird nesting habitat for the goshawk, marbled murrelet and saw wet owl.
In summarizing his presentation, Guujaaw said, “once the forest is logged, you’ve changed the natural conditions.” Some species cannot exist in the second growth forest, he said.
As well as hearing from Guujaaw, the forum members listened to Arnie Bellis, Vice President of the CHN, who explained the Haida Land Use Vision is based on the Haida Constitution, which took 12 years of debate in the House of Assembly. The constitution includes co-existence with neighbours and inclusion of local people.
“It isn’t always easy, but we have to rise above it, not only for the future of the Haida, but for those who live among us,” said Mr. Bellis. “The land use vision is a key part of the future for everyone.”
About twenty observers attended the presentation by Guujaaw, the most to attend a forum meeting thus far. All forum meetings are open to the public, with time at the end of each day for questions.