Land use plan contentious

  • Jun. 13, 2007 2:00 p.m.

Finalizing the Land Use Plan is essential, according to Council of Haida Nation vice-president Arnie Bellis.
“There are management plans out there through tenures and practice,” Mr. Bellis said, “And these have had no input from the community.”
He’s referring to historic logging practices and more recently, successful attempts by logging companies to apply for permits and log in areas that would have been protected under the Haida Land Use Vision, the basis of the CHN’s position at the land use planning table.
Mr. Bellis says the land use plan has been a long time coming. It was first proposed as necessary during the Islands Community Stability Initiative of the 1990s. Then in 2003, a community planning forum was formed and work co-managed by the province and the Haida began on the plan.
Mr. Bellis says the draft agreement initialled by the CHN and the province and made public at the end of May was the culmination of a long negotiating process.
“We initialled it, so there is a degree of satisfaction. Is one party absolutely happy? Let’s say we found a place where we could move forward,” he said.
The most visible change in this version of the land use plan is the addition of new protected areas.
John Broadhead of the Gowgaia Institute, an island-based sustainability think-tank, explains that the west coast corridor, as well as new protected areas on the east coast of Louise Island, Reef Island, and Cumshewa-Gray Bay, were add-ons to make up for the cutting that had gone on in the last year in proposed protected areas.
The plan as initialled includes 225,000 ha in proposed protected areas and another 37,700 ha in special value areas. These include culturally modified trees, monumental cedar, goshawk, marbled murrelet and other wilderness and biodiversity-valued areas. The management objectives for these are yet to be determined.
Mr. Broadhead says the Ecosystem Based Management objectives in the document are also new and follow the template of those used on the north and central coast. These objectives were a compromise and lower the bar from what was recommended at the Land Use Planning table, he said. The EBM objectives cover things like 100 percent retention of yew trees on cut blocks and a requirement to leave two tree-length buffer zones on streams that are known to be high-value salmon habitat.
But Mr. Broadhead points out that unless the document is signed and made into law soon, business as usual can continue. Companies can take two years grace to adjust their forestry plans and use other loopholes to get around some of the plan’s requirements.
Meanwhile, logging companies like Husby Forest Products (see page 1) and Teal Jones say they will not survive under the new LUP.
Bryan Fraser, operations forester at Teal Jones in Sandspit, says the new allowable annual cut could conceivably drop his cut below 100,000 m3, eliminating the economic viability of his operation. He is also concerned about the “detailed strategic planning” still to be completed after the LUP is approved by Cabinet.
“The devil will definitely be in the details and these details, or the rules for these details, haven’t been determined at this time,” he said.
But Arnie Bellis says protected areas may still shift after further analysis. The government and the CHN are now in the process of studying the impact of ecosystem management objectives on the timber supply. The document outlines an 800,000 m3 per year timber harvest.
As well, a 120,000 m3 Haida tenure is still on the table, as are the aspirations for tenure from the communities, he says.
Mr. Bellis says socio-economic issues are a key part of this document. He notes that more work needs to be done on the community viability report.
Logging is at the tail-end of a resource curve on-island, Mr. Broadhead says, and there is not a lot of old-growth left. The province is already in the position of adjusting stumpage rates to tenure holders, especially the larger ones, in order to help them access whatever is left. He says the district stumpage average was $5.81 for 2006, one of the lowest since the 1980s. Some, like those small businesses in the BC Timber Sales program, are paying up to $40 per m3, while Husby pays an average of $0.43 per m3.
The Land Use Plan will “provide opportunity for the community to take stock and come up with a plan that provides hope for a sustainable future,” he says.
“Or we could finish off the curve and not have any old growth to work with at all.”