Questions raised at logging meeting in Port Clements

  • Jan. 20, 2010 11:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret–The new logging rules proposed for the islands will severely restrict the amount of timber that can be harvested from cutblocks, and could make some logging too expensive to be worthwhile, a professional forester told a public meeting in Port Clements last Thursday (Jan. 14). Dave Trim said he had gone over the draft land use objectives carefully, and then tried applying them to Tree Farm Licence areas around Port Clements. He showed the audience several maps displaying the result. Green areas representing possible harvestable trees ended up buried under purple, pink and blue overlays representing values like fish habitat, animal habitat and cedar preservation areas. “Look for some green, that’s what left,” Mr. Trim said, pointing to a few small patches on the map. “Look for a new job, you mean,” an audience member responded. Almost 100 people crowded into the seniors room and the hallway beside it to hear Mr. Trim’s presentation, including a class of nine university students studying the politics of forest management. Mayor Cory Delves explained that the village had organized the meeting so residents could learn more about the proposed new logging rules and their possible effects. The provincial government is accepting input on the draft rules until Feb. 12, and with the Haida Nation is also holding open houses this week in all islands communities. In response to questions about exactly how much cut the new rules will allow, Mr. Trim said the situation is complicated. A consultant hired by the province and the Haida Nation has concluded that an annual cut of 800,000 cubic metres is technically possible under the new rules, but Mr. Trim said he wondered if the consultant had been working with complete data, especially about streams. “There’s a high likelihood there could be a lot of problems,” he said. However, he added that the reconciliation protocol signed by the Haida Nation and the province last month does outline opportunities to adjust and address problems as they come up. “The upshot of all this is, I think islanders need to get together and start talking about a solution,” he said. “The forest is still there. It’s a matter of how much we’re going to cut and who’s going to cut it.” Mr. Trim said the new rules might make logging unaffordable, even if volume is technically available. He showed the crowd slides of cutblocks in the Port area approved under the voluntary ecosystem-based management rules being used right now, along with slides of the same cutblocks with the new rules imposed, shrinking the amount of timber that could be harvested in each cutblock. “I put that map in front of (logging contractor Stan Schiller) and said, can you afford to log it now?” Mr. Trim said. “You can guess what he said… The problem is, the harvest area goes down but the length of road stays the same.” The road is one of the biggest costs, he said. If the amount of wood that can be harvested with a certain length of road gets too low, it won’t economically feasible to do the logging. Another problem, he said, is that stricter rules like the land use objectives order end up fracturing the landscape and paradoxically, make it likely that more roads will have to be built to get at the bits of harvestable wood. Dale Lore said he believed the new rules, along with the agreements between the Haida and the province, will lead to more local decision-making, and that the intent of the parties will prove to be more important than the actual rules and regulations. Mr. Trim said that the reconciliation protocol does have clauses outlining how the resources on the islands will be jointly managed and how problems can be solved. It will mean more local decision-making, he agreed. “In some ways this is great,” he said. “The opportunities are there.” But the biggest questions for many of those attending had nothing to do with the draft land use order, the subject of Mr. Trim’s presentation. They want to know how much wood will be logged in the future, whether the Haida Nation will be buying Western Forest Products’ TFL on the islands and what it plans to do with it, how many jobs will be left in Port once the timber tenures and volumes are reallocated… All questions with no clear answers, for now.