By Alex Rinfret–Islands community leaders joined Council of the Haida Nation representatives in Victoria Friday (June 15) to tell the provincial government they support the draft land use agreement, and want more time and resources to work on a community viability study.
Lands Minister Pat Bell, Forests Minister Rich Coleman and a “whole slug” of deputy ministers were at the hour-long morning meeting to listen to the islanders, said CHN vice-president Arnie Bellis.
The meeting was organized by the CHN and the province, and the CHN invited the community leaders to attend, Mr. Bellis said. Three main points were made: the islanders support the draft land use plan (which has been initialled by the CHN and the province), the islanders want to continue with the community viability forum started last year, and communication between the islands and the provincial government must be very clear.
“I thought it was very successful,” Mr. Bellis said. “We, all of us in that room, showed there is common interest and common understanding and common goals.”
The draft agreement proposes more than doubling the amount of protected areas to 48 percent of the land base, and outlines an 800,000 cubic metre annual timber harvest, much less than has been harvested here in the past.
Masset mayor Barry Pages agreed the meeting went well, with every islander having the opportunity to speak. The islands communities support the draft land use agreement, he said – no surprise, since most of it reflects the land use plan agreed to by a group of islands representatives during an 18-month process a couple of years ago.
“I appreciate the invitation to sit at the table and discuss these things,” Mr. Pages said. “I thought it was a good meeting.”
The islands representatives asked the provincial government for more time and money to work on a community viability study started last year. The study – commissioned by a steering group of islands leaders with provincial funding, and written by consultants – is now circulating in draft form, but the communities need resources to complete it and implement its recommendations, Mr. Pages said.
“The last thing we want is another document sitting on the shelf gathering dust,” he said.
Mr. Pages said the communities have not yet had a chance to sit down together and discuss the draft viability study.
The only community not represented at the meeting was Port Clements. Mayor Cory Delves said Port wasn’t able to attend because with only three days notice, no one was available. As well, Mr. Delves said, Port council has not had a chance to review the draft land use agreement.
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