Minister of State for Forestry Operations Roger Harris announced Wednesday that the provincial government is inviting Masset to apply for a community forest licence which would allow it to harvest up to 25,000 cubic metres of wood.
“It’s just a great announcement,” Mr. Harris told a room full of local politicians and small business owners in Masset. “It’s going to work for this community, it’s going to work for everyone on the islands.”
Mr. Harris said Masset was chosen to apply for the first community forest on the islands because the village had applied for one and did a lot of lobbying. There may be more community forest tenures given out, he said.
“I’m here today because this is the floor, not the ceiling,” he said. “The fact that we’re here to do one is not because we’re excluding others.”
Masset mayor Barry Pages was not on hand due to weather conditions which stranded him in Prince Rupert, but councillor Ed Woode thanked Mr. Harris on behalf of the community.
“This is a historical event for all of us,” he said.
But the announcement was not without controversy. Haida Nation vice-president Arnie Bellis said the government had not consulted the Haida about it, and asked why the volume was being committed before the land use table completes its process. He also questioned the term of the proposed licence and the relatively small volume.
“Five years is not a very long time,” he said, comparing the community forest to the huge tenures owned by Weyerhaeuser and Husby Forest Products.
Mr. Harris replied that the five-year term for community forest licences can and will be extended if things are going well. The government’s idea was to start with a short term to make sure the holder knows what they’re getting into.
He also said the government will be talking to the Haida Nation about the issue.
The government has not yet decided where the community forest will be located. Choosing a site will be one of the next steps in the process, Mr. Harris said.
Small business owners like Brian Bussiere and Gloria O’Brien applauded the announcement.
“To me, this is exciting because I’ve been listening to the politics around timber supply for years,” said Ms O’Brien, whose family owns a logging operation in Port Clements. “Thank you Roger, I think it’s great for Masset and I think it’s great for small business.”
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