Logging the Queen Charlotte watershed not a popular idea

  • Jul. 22, 2005 8:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay-“This is right in our backyards. We don’t need the risk,” said Duncan White at a preliminary meeting about Teal Cedar Products’ plans to log the watershed above Queen Charlotte and Skidegate.
The hastily-scheduled Wednesday noon meeting, which wasn’t meant to be open to the public, was held to present a draft hydrologist’s report about the slopes above the town to the Queen Charlotte Management Committee.
Dale Morgan, forester for Teal Cedar Products, said the hydrologist happened to be in town, and this was the reason for the lack of notice.
Immediately concerns were raised about how much say the public would have in any plans to log near creeks that residents use for drinking water.
“To what extent will the public be consulted? I get nervous when you say it’s not a public meeting,” said Mr. White, who has a water licence on one of the creeks that may be impacted by logging.
Mr. Morgan explained the public review process would take place once a Forest Development Plan is submitted to the Ministry of Forests.
In the meantime, the purpose of the hydrologist report was to identify the watersheds in the area and attempt to determine potential effects of forestry on water quality and quantity as well as on public safety, and potential effects on infrastructure and buildings.
Michael Milne, the hydrology consultant who wrote the report, described the slopes above the Queen Charlotte as a steep system, very defined in the landscape, which empty into the sea with small alluvial fans. The watershed in Skidegate is different as the main water supply in Slarkedus Creek drains through low-grade slope, wetlands and lakes. Forest development in each system has its own unique challenges.
Maps were presented which showed many of the creeks in Queen Charlotte, Skidegate Landing and Skidegate. The maps also showed purple outlines where Teal Jones’s timber licence and information blocks exist.
These lines are not necessarily representative of where the company will log, according to Mr. Morgan. Or if they will, he said.
“We are not talking about where development will occur until we are done the assessment,” he said.
Rolf Bettner of Queen Charlotte said it was unprofessional to bring maps to a meeting that presented a false picture of what may happen.
“Can we get accurate maps from the get-go!” he said.
Mr. White asked how the process would be affected by incorporation.
“All I’m hearing is consultation with no degree of real control. If we were a legal entity, would there be a different level of consultation?” he asked, pointing out the proposed forest development takes up a third of the municipal boundaries for the new village.
Carol Kulesha, regional district director, explained provincial land remains provincial land, even when it is within municipal boundaries, but there is nothing to stop a municipality from asking for land to be annexed for future purposes such as recreation.
She also voiced her concerns with logging in the watershed. The management committee is still dealing with water problems, she said.
“We’ve thought about damming and collecting water from these creeks Â… It would be a big concern to give up any possible water supply,” she said.
Stewardship forester Mark Salzl, who was representing the Forest Service, said if land were annexed from the timber licence there would have to be compensation for Teal Jones.
He also suggested the area might be perfect for a demonstration forest which could showcase a mosaic of different harvesting systems. It could show other communities how things should be done, he said.
“This could be one of the most interesting ones in the province,” said Mr. Salzl.
Anne Mountifield, chair of the management committee, said she had gone over the report carefully and thought it well-done. But she reminded people of last winter’s tragic slides in North Vancouver and questioned who would be liable here if a slide occurred due to logging in the watershed above.
Malcolm Dunderdale lives at the base of Muncord Creek and is concerned about wildlife habitat and coho spawning grounds as well as water quality and slope stability.
“We don’t want to see the area logged. Go somewhere else,” he said.
Many people at the meeting, after assessing Mr. Milne’s recommendations, concluded there are few good areas to choose from on the map.
“What’s left to log?” they asked.
Mr. Milne suggested that if nothing else, having a hydrology report was a positive outcome of this process as it is the first assessment done of its kind here. Many communities never know what happens high up in their watersheds.
“Most people don’t know what happens above the intake. Now we have the information,” he said.
Mr. Morgan said nothing will happen until 2007-08, and logging may not happen at all.
“This is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, noting the district manager may not approve the harvest plan.
“As owner of the licence, it is my responsibility to move forward with this and see where it goes,” he told the room.
Mr. Bettner wanted to know if this was a desperation plan.
“How many other permits do you have in place?” he asked. The answer from Mr. Morgan was one.
At the request of the district manager, Mr. Morgan is putting together a watershed advisory committee. This committee will be made up of representatives from the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Forests, Ministry of Environment, an environmental health officer, the Queen Charlotte Management Committee, Skidegate Band Council and the Council of the Haida Nation.
He doesn’t have a problem if members of the public attend meetings, but Mr. Morgan says they will not be on the committee itself.
The committee will likely meet in late August, Mr. Morgan said. He intends to have a forest development plan in place by August or September.
Mr. Morgan is also waiting for a terrain assessment and a visual impact assessment before he starts planning.
Mr. Morgan said he will be happy to speak with people about their concerns and is particularly interested in verifying names of creeks and sites of active water licences.