By Heather Ramsay–More small-scale forestry is the answer, said the provincial minister in charge of Land Use Plans after a quick helicopter tour of the islands and a chance to meet local community leaders on their home turf.
Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell, who is also in charge of the Integrated Land and Management Bureau tasked with completing land use plans in the province, had never been to the islands before.
Minister Bell said he met Queen Charlotte Mayor Carol Kulesha at the Union on BC Municipalities conference in late October and she told him it was time he visited.
So his staff cleared his calendar on Nov. 6 and the whirlwind day began. He flew into Masset, met with the Forest Guardians, then got into a helicopter with Guujaaw and saw Duu Guusd, Langara Island, and the inland log harvest regions on the northern portion of the islands. Then he landed in Sandspit and met with Moresby Island Management Committee chair Gail Henry as well as Mayor Kulesha and Port Clements mayor Cory Delves.
Mr. Bell says there is good work being done on developing economic strategies through the community viability process, but he hopes island communities will start to work more co-operatively together.
“I get a bit of sense the communities are not working together,” he said.
He is keen to see more small-scale forestry manufacturing on the islands.
The minister has a background in small scale log harvesting and salvage businesses in the Prince George region where he lives.
He says there is often high value product left in the woods, and if people are a little bit creative, they can get significant value out of salvage.
“Surely there is a way of developing the economy by adding value on islands,” he said.
As for the progress on the Land Use Plan, he is optimistic that the next time he comes to the islands (Dec. 8) some agreements will be made.
The consultation protocol, which will outline how discussions need to take place to make decisions around tenures and issuing of permits in the future, is a key area needing closure.
This is what will allow decisions to be made that respect the culture of First Nations.
He said the discussions are in the government-to-First Nation government phase, which means there is no central table for others, including other local governments, to have input.
“The provincial government represents all people on the islands,” he says, “And there will be times when it is appropriate to have public discussions.
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