Forests Minister Doug Donaldson says a pair of controversial timber sales near Nadu Road and Lawn Hill will go to a technical working group for further review.
Writing in reply to the Port Clements village council, Donaldson said the working group will include staff from the Council of the Haida Nation, the B.C. forests ministry, BC Timber Sales and the affected companies.
“I understand the importance of having a viable forest economy on Haida Gwaii and the challenge that a lack of consensus on forest activities presents to your community and economy,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson said the province is committed to working together in the spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and also recognizes that community economic stability and employment must be restored.
“Although compliant with the Land Use Order Objectives, the technical team will consider what opportunities exist to better meet the expectations of the Haida and community that may allow these sales to proceed unencumbered.”
Infinity West and O’Brien & Fuerst Logging successfully bid on the BCTS sales at Nadu and Lawn Hill last year, but in November the CHN told them not to log the areas. Both companies are based in Port Clements, where the village council says over two-thirds of the jobs rely on forestry.
When the BCTS sales went up for bid, a key issue was that both include easy-access, high-value cedar stands that were expected to become part of a future Haida Gwaii Community Forest. Another issue is the overharvesting of cedar on Haida Gwaii.
Leaders from every Haida Gwaii village but Port Clements joined the CHN in asking the province to withdraw the two Nadu and Lawn Hill sales and replace them with sales outside the proposed community forest area.
In March, Port Clements council wrote the minister asking for urgent help, suggesting an immediate interim agreement between the province and CHN to avoid more lay-offs and residents leaving the village.
Apologizing for the delayed reply, Donaldson noted that the two timber-sale licences satisfy current law, the Kunst’aa guu — Kunst’aayah Reconciliation Protocol, and the objectives of the Haida Gwaii Land-use Order.
“The reason for the non-consensus was based on cedar management related to the amount of cedar harvest annually,” Donaldson said.
“In addition, the Haida and many island residents feel the lack of resource benefit sharing is no longer acceptable.”
On that second point, Donaldson said demands for more benefit sharing cannot be satisfied until the province and islands communities reach agreement on a Haida Gwaii Community Forest.
After seeking public opinion on the province’s offer so far — one that includes 50/50 revenue sharing with BC Timber Sales on 55,000 m3 of timber a year — the Misty Isles Economic Development Society requested more time to negotiate an agreement that is more in line with islands interests.