By Alex Rinfret-The Council of the Haida Nation will not accept blame for the tight timber supply on northern Moresby Island, CHN president Guujaaw told Sandspit residents at a public meeting last week.
“We know you people depend on it and it’s a serious situation. It comes about from many years of logging,” Guujaaw told the more than 100 people who filled the community hall. “We’re certainly not going to be the ones to take any blame for any hardship in this community.”
He told the residents he wanted to show them some facts about the history of logging in the area around Sandspit, partly in response to a recent letter in the Observer from resident Doug Gould, which accused the CHN of killing jobs in the community.
“Essentially, we want to lay out some facts, we want to show people what the forestry situation is on this side,” Guujaaw said. “We do not accept the blame for this.”
Guujaaw introduced John Broadhead of the Gowgaia Institute, who showed a brief power point presentation of the logging which has taken place around Sandspit over the past century. The map started out with all the land green; larger and larger chunks turned yellow as the years went by, then gradually turned orange as second growth forests grew. By 2004 not many green patches were left.
A handout passed around to the audience stated that the area around Sandspit, including TFL 47 and some other licences, contains 74,600 hectares, of which 56,800 hectares are harvestable. Of this 56,800 hectares, 74 percent has already been logged (or 42,200 hectares).
The CHN wants approximately 2,000 hectares of TFL 47 as protected areas, including Government Creek and the Dover Trail, and is negotiating these and other protected areas around the islands with the provincial government, Guujaaw said. What the CHN wants to protect is a relatively small percentage of the total land base, and is not the reason for local job losses, he said.
But for whatever reason, Sandspit residents are clearly worried about the future of their small community, where many jobs depend on the logging industry. Person after person at the meeting said families are moving away, friends are seeking information about how to declare bankruptcy, and parents are anxious about the next mortgage payment and grocery bill.
“Everybody’s savings are gone,” said Joni Fraser. “There are going to be bankruptcies hereÂ… We are in a really, really dreadful state.”
Dale Morgan, operations forester at Teal Cedar Products Ltd, said the company has plenty of timber approved for cutting, but a series of circumstances has made it uneconomical to log. Part of the problem is that Teal is a small, private company, and therefore not nearly as flexible as the larger forestry companies which operate on the islands.
Last year’s blockade led to delays in cutting permits, which caused a “cascade effect”, he explained. The company shipped machines off island to save money, and right now there’s not enough volume or the market conditions to make it worthwhile to start up again.
“It really does not have a lot to do with the Haida,” he said.
Teal’s cut, plus work done on Moresby for other companies like Cascadia, is enough to employ 60 people for eight months a year, he said.
“The problem is we needed to have that whole operation, and that whole operation fell apart,” Mr. Morgan said. “There isn’t really an answer.”
Sandspit’s regional district director, Travis Glasman, offered a couple of possible solutions for the community. The government could offer stumpage relief to Teal so it could afford to start up operations, he said. Sandspit should also support innovative locals who have been trying for years to create jobs with salvaged wood.
“If we want our community back, that’s where we’re going to have to look,” he said, to applause. “We’re going to have to work together and like or not, work very hard.”
Others in the room suggested that the Sewell Inlet cut formerly owned by Western Forest Products should be turned over to the community or Teal Cedar. It is currently held by BC Timber Sales.
The negotiations between the CHN and the provincial government may provide some certainty to Sandspit’s future, but those talks will continue for at least the next few months, residents heard. Jose Villa-Arce, the provincial representative, admitted negotiations had gotten off to a slow start, but said they are now proceeding.
The protected areas and a consultation protocol will be the first items settled, and negotiations can proceed from there, he said.
“We will continue to be here way more regularly,” he promised.
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