Logging company says new annual allowable cut not possible

  • Mar. 3, 2010 11:00 a.m.

Proposed new logging rules for the islands will restrict the forest industry so much that it will be impossible to harvest 800,000 cubic metres a year here, the target established in the Haida Gwaii strategic land use agreement, according to a submission from Western Forest Products. WFP is the largest forest company operating on the islands. Spokesman Gary Ley told the Observer that normally, between 150 and 200 people would be working on the company’s Tree Farm Licence here. Right now, due to economic conditions, about 54 employees and contractors are working. In an 11-page submission to the Integrated Land Management Bureau, WFP chief forester Kerry McGourlick said the draft rules, technically known as the Haida Gwaii land use objectives order, will not provide the economic opportunity promised in the land use agreement, and will not result in an appropriate balance of social, economic and environmental benefits. He urged the government to use the current economic slowdown to make changes to the order, while there’s not much logging going on. “Assuming the economic recovery will be slow, there is time to get the order right, without putting ecosystem integrity, Haida cultural values or human well being at significant risk,” he wrote. It costs more to operate on Haida Gwaii because of higher transportation and service costs, but the company has been able to keep working here because the islands have high value forest stands, Mr. McGourlick wrote. Once the orders are in place, the company will face higher costs like additional planning steps and fragmented areas, and many of the higher value stands and trees will be removed. These constraints may make logging uneconomic, he wrote. WFP also calls on government to compensate the loggers, contractors and businesses which will lose out because of the changes. The annual allowable cut of all tenures on the islands is 1.6 million cubic metres (although far less is being harvested). The land use agreement calls for an annual cut of 800,000 cubic metres. Even if that cut were possible under the new rules, it will mean a 50 percent reduction, Mr. McGourlick wrote. “If the land use order impact are as forecast by government, approximately 50 percent of the tenure rights and their associated contracts and employment opportuntiies on Haida Gwaii will be gone,” he wrote. “As part of the implementation of the order, we recommend that the government proceeds with fair and timely compensation to workers, contractors and tenure holders who will be detrimentally affected.” Another large licensee, the Teal Jones Group, expressed some other concerns in its comments on the draft land use order. Operations forester Bryan Fraser analyzed how the order fits into existing legislation and policy, raising several questions about how it will be administered and how disputes will be settled. “The order appears to grant to the Haida Nation statutory authority to determine unilaterally the extent of their rights under each objective as well as what measures are required to protect those rights,” Mr. Fraser wrote in his submission to the Integrated Land Management Bureau. In the absence of an unbiased decision-maker with the authority to settle disagreements, “it would appear that licensees will be obligated to submit to the Haida Nation’s position on any disputed matter.” Mr. Fraser’s three-part submission also raises concerns about the role of professional foresters, processes around monumental cedar, data sharing, and the calculation of protected area required for marbled murrelets.