Logging in Skidegate Channel damaged viewscape

  • Nov. 14, 2014 8:00 a.m.

A Council of the Haida Nation complaint about the visual impacts of logging on Haida Gwaii was upheld in a Forest Practices Board report released earlier this month.The logging in question took place in 2009 on the north side of Skidegate Channel, west of Queen Charlotte, in a significant travel corridor for tourists, fishermen and residents of Haida Gwaii.”In the board’s opinion, a failure to meet government objectives for visual quality arose due to the licensee’s reliance on unsound professional assessments and refusal to engage in dialogue with government officials and forest professionals who expressed concerns on several occasions,'” said board chair Tim Ryan.Trevor Russ, vice-president of the Haida Nation, said he was pleased with the finding.”I think from the Council of the Haida Nation perspective, we’re happy that the Forest Practices Board stepped up,” he said, noting that the CHN has heard additional concerns from citizens about the visual impacts of logging.Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha also applauded the Forest Practices Board’s decision but said it took too long.”The system did work although way too slowly,” she said. “It took five years to come to this conclusion.”Ms Kulesha said Skidegate Channel is an important area used by many islanders and visitors travelling by boat. The logging in question was started in 2009.The board found that professional visual impact assessments done for Teal Cedar Products Ltd. underestimated the degree of alteration to the viewscape. Even though staff of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the village of Queen Charlotte both raised concerns about the potential impacts of the logging before it took place, the company would not discuss the concerns nor reconsider the accuracy of the assessments before it proceeded to log.The report notes that it is difficult for Ministry of Forests staff to refuse to issue cutting permits, even when there are concerns.”This case is another example supporting a concern of the board that government officials have no ability to refuse cutting permits when they suspect a high risk to forest values,” the report says. “The public expects government to protect their interests when risk is obvious, rather than allowing a failure to occur.”The report also criticizes government for failing to take enforcement action against the licensee for not meeting legal requirements to protect visual quality.The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board investigates complaints about forest and range practices on public lands and the appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

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