Province hands out $3-million in Queen Charlotte

  • Apr. 8, 2009 7:00 p.m.

Forests Minister Pat Bell’s visit to Queen Charlotte Monday (April 6) featured the handing out of almost $3-million to local communities and the Haida Nation, a birthday cake for Guujaaw, and an appearance by local Liberal candidate Herb Pond. Guujaaw, president of the Haida Nation, had to leave to catch a plane before the official announcements, but was at the Forest District building long enough to receive a $590,000 cheque from Mr. Bell and birthday wishes from Forest District staff and community leaders. He delegated the cutting of his birthday cake to district manager Len Munt. The $590,000 is coming from the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, and will allow the CHN to hire people to work on the final stages of implementing the land use agreement, Mr. Bell explained. “This funding will go directly to supporting staff requirements for the Council of the Haida Nation to continue working on this vital agreement,” Mr. Bell said. “Strategic land use planning promotes a sustainable island economy while protecting important ecological, culture and spiritual areas.” Mr. Bell has been on the islands several times, but this was his first visit since he became Forests Minister nine months ago. He said the islands have a remarkable group of community leaders, both First Nations and non-First Nations, who care deeply about the environment and about the quality of life here. As a result, he said, Haida Gwaii is building a long-term, stable future, and will eventually be an example for the world in sustainable economic development. Mr. Bell then handed out cheques to Masset mayor Barry Pages, Port Clements mayor Cory Delves, Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha and Area E director Travis Glasman for a wide variety of projects. After the official announcement, he met privately with the community leaders. Mr. Delves said he was disappointed that Mr. Bell had no announcement to make about a community forest tenure for the islands, something the communities have been working together on for many years. “I was expecting to hear about a community forest today, and we didn’t,” he said. “Unfortunately, we did not come away with any more news.” Mr. Delves said it appears the community forest announcement is being held up because the provincial government is still trying to decide how to divide up forest tenures on the islands. The strategic land use plan restricts the initial annual cut to 800,000 cubic metres, about half the previous level. “It is an issue with a pie with limited pieces,” he said. “The distribution of the cut is the issue there.” Mr. Bell told the Observer that the province is still working on a community forest for the islands. A bigger tenure would be more viable and that is one of the issues at hand, he said. The funding announced on Monday includes:$400,000 from the federal-provincial “Towns for Tomorrow” program for improvements to Sandspit’s community hall.almost $100,000 from the same program for Port Clements to upgrade its sewage treatment facility.$39,000 from the same program for Masset to build a new 350-metre cycling/walking path connecting the village with the new hospital.$10,000 to study bike path options for the islands.$486,000 for Queen Charlotte, $535,000 for Masset and $529,000 for Port from the province’s strategic community investment fund. The amounts include the annual small community grants which help the municipalities provide basic services.$5,000 for Port to plant trees and beautify public green spaces.$22,700 to the regional district to hire four forest workers for five weeks. The workers will repair fences at the Port Clements landfill site, construct three storage sheds and de-valve propane cylinders.

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