Husby Forest Products stands by its work at Collison Point / St’alaa Kun and warns the latest dispute over logging there is costing local jobs.
By Monday, Husby said it would need to lay off 21 mostly on-island workers because it has agreed to suspend logging in five cedar-leading cutblocks at Collison Point.
“This has a significant impact on the local communities,” Husby said in a written response filed in the B.C. Supreme Court last week. Husby normally employs 23 staff, 15 to 20 contractors, and last year spent $3.5 million on Haida Gwaii.
With timber valued at $6.4 million, the five cutblocks are subject to a court injunction hearing launched by the Council of the Haida Nation in late May.
The CHN alleges that Husby unlawfully felled at least 99 “monumental” cedars in one of the five cutblocks — large, clean-faced cedar trees that are ideal for carving Haida poles and canoes.
The CHN also singled Husby out for cutting cedar at a rate five to seven times higher than what B.C.’s Chief Forester says Haida Gwaii forests can sustain.
If nothing changes, the CHN warned, in less than 20 years the islands will go into a decades-long period where no cedar is available for harvest.
On the first point, Husby says it has not logged any monumental cedars unlawfully.
According to the Haida Gwaii land-use order, all companies must do surveys for Haida cultural features, including monumental cedars, before they can log or build roads.
Husby said it had CHN-certified surveyors do that at Collison Point two years ago, and for the cutblock in question they found just 11 monumentals.
Daniel Scholey, a Husby forest technologist, said in an affidavit that CHN staff who audited the cutblock again this spring and identified at least 99 couldn’t see all their defects — besides the ground-facing side, the felled cedars are now stacked against other logs.
Outside the injunction hearing, staff with B.C.’s forests ministry are now investigating the allegations of unlawfully cut monumentals.
As for the issue of over-harvesting cedar, Husby Vice-president Robert Sanberg said in an affidavit that the company has been shifting towards the lower rate of cedar harvest recommended by the Chief Forester in 2012, but it’s a challenging shift given the years-long planning involved.
While Husby did cut above the recommended cedar limit from 2014 to 2016, Sandberg said even Taan Forest Products, which is owned by the Haida Nation, exceeded the recommended limit from 2013 to 2016.
Moreover, Husby pointed out that for now, the cedar limit is just a guideline, not a legally enforceable rule.
Although the Chief Forester recommended that it become a “hard” limit last October, B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has not yet made the required ministerial order to make it enforceable.
“At best, the Petitioners are asking that the Court intervene to impose a guideline that is not required by law,” said Husby in response to the CHN petition, adding that the CHN is trying to “short-circuit” a policy change that needs time to do right.
Husby noted that a new timber-supply review of Haida Gwaii is expected this summer, and it will give everyone a clearer picture of the cedar remaining on the islands.
The company asked the court to dismiss the CHN’s request for an injunction against it.
“There is no serious issue to be tried as the permits for the Cutblocks were legally issued, the cedar partition is of no legal effect and efforts to manage cedar volumes are ongoing and should be permitted to continue without interference,” Husby said.
Besides the $11,340 per day its staff will lose due to lay-offs, the company noted that if cannot finish logging the five cutblocks at Collison it will forfeit $825,000 in road-building costs and the $336,895 spent so far on engineering, mapping, timber cruising, archaeological assessments, cultural-feature surveys, riparian surveys, wind-throw surveys, and site plans by registered professional foresters.
Valued at $6.4 million, the 36,000 m3 of timber in the five cutblocks at Collison amounts to about a quarter of Husby’s allowed cut for the year.