The provincial government signed an agreement with the Council of the Haida Nation on Wednesday (May 18) which will protect 60,000 hectares from logging, further reduce the annual allowable cut on the islands, and give the CHN an initial payment of $5-million as a share of resource revenue.
The agreement will also give the Haida Nation an area-based forest tenure with an annual volume of up to 120,000 cubic metres. The location of this tenure will be figured out within the next month, as will many other details of the agreement.
The CHN is looking at holding public meetings starting next week to explain the agreement to all island residents, said spokesperson Bob Mills.
Mr. Mills said the deal with the province will bring the benefits of long-term sustainability to everyone on Haida Gwaii.
“Speaking not only as a member of the Haida Nation but as a member of the islands community, I think for everyone it’s a good deal,” he said. “If everyone could look to the long term, to what we’re trying to achieve, they’d be quite happy with the agreement.”
The agreement pretty much ends the Islands Spirit Rising protest which began March 22 with islanders blocking logging roads at Juskatla and Queen Charlotte. The two checkpoints have been allowing traffic through for over a month now, and Mr. Mills said they will remain that way while further discussions between the CHN and province take place over the next few weeks (the 30-day period ends June 17).
The negotiating team which is talking to provincial representatives in Vancouver includes CHN president Guujaaw, vice-president Arnie Bellis, representatives from the Old Massett Village Council and Skidegate Band Council, hereditary chiefs from Massett and Skidegate, and Port Clements mayor Dale Lore, Mr. Mills said.
Stan Schiller, owner of Edwards and Associates Logging, the contractor which had been most affected by the blockade, said he is happy that it’s over and called the agreement “a very good deal” for the Haida people.
“I hope this is going to be good for industry as well,” he said, adding that much will depend on the next phase of negotiations.
The CHN comes away with $5-million and a 120,000 cubic metre tenure, but for the rest of the islands, the effects of the agreement are not yet clear, Mr. Schiller said.
“We really don’t know how that is going to affect the island people,” he said. “There is still a lot to be done.”
Edwards employees have now returned to work, and Mr. Schiller said he is employing just as many workers as he did before the blockade. Not all Edwards workers are back on the job, but he said this is due to Weyerhaeuser cut reductions rather than the protest action.
“We are in the same position as we were before the blockade,” he said.
Gloria O’Brien of O’Brien and Fuerst Logging Ltd in Port Clements said the agreement will have a huge impact on local small business loggers.
“It took all the small business wood away,” she said. “It’s a very sad day and I don’t know what is going to happen to our community.”
Although BC Timber Sales manager Jerry Kennah said it’s not yet clear what the impact will be on the timber sales program, Ms O’Brien said she learned last week that the cut reductions will come almost entirely from that program rather than the major licensees.
“It’s shocking,” she said. “This could be the end of usÂ… They sold the small business guys out.”
Mr. Kennah said the timber sales program will be affected but there’s “nothing we can quantify at this pointÂ… We don’t know how large it will be or how significant it will be.”
But Mr. Mills said the reduction in cut – the exact amount of which has yet to be determined – will affect everyone.
“It’s my understanding that everyone is going to be affected by it, not just Weyerhaeuser or the small business program,” he said. “No one person will feel the brunt of it.”
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