Continued Concerns About Logging on Haida Gwaii

Graham Cox, Catherine Garrett, Darrian Matassa-Fung, Sean Murphy, Carol Xu / December 7, 2018

Haida Gwaii graveyard of our 'ancestors', our forests.

Posted by Haida Gwaii Land Protectors on Friday, September 14, 2018

‘Mythic,’ and ‘mysterious’ are just a few words found on social media used to describe the islands of Haida Gwaii – an archipelago off the western coast of British Columbia. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the islands are considered some of the most isolated in the country and boast an abundance of wildlife as well as a collection of temperate, old growth rainforests. These areas have caught the eyes of logging companies for a variety of reasons over the last century. Forestry experts have described Haida Gwaii as being great for logging because of having port accesibility, superior quality of wood and a wealth of old growth forests.

Agricultural economist Gerrit Van Kooten, says logging makes up approximately one third of BC’s economy and lumber demand is rising. With the industry set to remain steady in the near future, logging on Haida Gwaii will continue, but what impact will increased activity have on the region?

“The question always is ‘How much is enough’ – ‘how much do you need?’ How much should you be willing to give up for logging? What money is being generated for the people of BC from the logging excercise? If it’s very little logging revenue – then the question is ‘Why are we doing it?'” – John Innes, Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Forestry.

Ecology & The Environment

“It’s really a case by case basis – but there are principles of sustainable forest management.” says John Innes, the Dean of the Faculty of Forestry at UBC. “We would be looking – firstly – at making sure that the biodiversity of the area is maintained Secondly, maintaining at the productivity at the whole ecosystem; not just of the trees. We’d be looking at maintaining the health of the ecosystem, we’d be looking at maintaining soils and waters. Looking at the carbon balance, and meeting socio-economic, cultural and social needs. “

Not just logging, but the machinery and building access to the logging sites can add damages.

Local Activist Lisa White says the logging is effecting the ecosystem on Haida Gwaii.

“I’m worried about the unique species of plants and animals – like the Goshawks, the Murrelets, y’know, the Saw-whet Owl. Even our bears, they’re a very unique species of black bears that have evolved over thousands of years.”

Currently, 7 species are Endangered on Haida Gwaii. 9 are Threatened. 17 are listed as Special Concern.

If actions aren’t taken to protect them, they’ll soon become threatened or endangered.

Endangered
Threatened
Special concern
Little Brown Myotis Ermine Ancient Murrelet
Blue Whale Marbled Murrelet Great Blue Heron
Leatherback Seaturtle Northern Goshawk Keen’s Myotis
North Pacific Right Whale Northern Saw-whet Owl Oldgrowth Specklebelly Lichen
Northern Abalone Fin Whale Peregrine Falcon
Sei Whale Humpback Whale Western Toad
Killer Whale Black-footed Albatross
Pink-footed Shearwater Bluntnose Sixgill Shark
Short-tailed Albatross Green Sturgeon
Grey Whale
Harbour Porpoise
Blackspotted Rockfish
Longspine Thornyhead
Sea Otter
Steller Sea Lion
Tope
Yelloweye Rockfish

The Haida Nation

The Haida nation has expressed that while they are not against logging itself, they wish to be consulted on any decisions regarding their land.

The 2009  Kunst’aa guu Kunst’aayah reconciliation protocol, meaning “The beginning” in Haida details this. After the blockades at Athlii Gwaii, also known as Lyell Island, in 1985 there were calls to the provincial government for a change.


“At first it was just kind of a free for all. Before that people would just come and log. Before people. We use the forest now but it’s not in the same way they did it. We did it with single trees.
” – Guujaaw, former President of the Haida Nation.

Guujaaw says during the peak of logging on the island, there were as many as 2.5 million cubic meters of wood being shipped away.

Now, that number is about 800 thousand. He says while it is a big improvement from the way things were, he believes that further regulations are necessary to prevent abuse.

“What we are up against is an economy built upon spoiling the earth. We are really up against a whole society. We are a small group of people with very few resources to fight with.” – Guujaaw


“We have had an effect if you look at what we’ve won, half the land is under protection, and that’s pretty damn amazing to have done that, protected half the land. But when you consider it from our point of view it’s not really a gain. There is no net gain, that’s just how the land was that’s how it was meant to be. Really what we did is we lost out on the other part.  We are trying to mitigate that loss by first of all trying to reduce the impact of logging and trying to make sure that some of the benefits come back to the island. We really haven’t been that successful, we are still logging and the profit seems to get shipped off the island.
” he adds.

Guujaaw says during the peak of logging on the island, there were as many as 2.5 million cubic meters of wood being shipped away.

Now, that number is about 800 thousand. He says while it is a big improvement from the way things were, he believes that further regulations are necessary to prevent abuse.

“What we are up against is an economy built upon spoiling the earth. We are really up against a whole society. We are a small group of people with very few resources to fight with.” – Guujaaw

“We have had an effect if you look at what we’ve won, half the land is under protection, and that’s pretty damn amazing to have done that, protected half the land. But when you consider it from our point of view it’s not really a gain. There is no net gain, that’s just how the land was that’s how it was meant to be. Really what we did is we lost out on the other part.  We are trying to mitigate that loss by first of all trying to reduce the impact of logging and trying to make sure that some of the benefits come back to the island. We really haven’t been that successful, we are still logging and the profit seems to get shipped off the island.” he adds.

Guujaaw cites the importance of court cases in the Haida’s fight to control their land.

“Blockades themselves don’t stop logging- all they do is bring attention to a cause but you have to be doing other things for them to be effective. “

“The trees might be 5500 or 800 or 1000 years old but the forest itself is 140,00 years old. When you go through an old forest it’s basically the same as it was before there was any serious logging on island. Now, we’ve got people interfering with the natural world.”

The Government’s Role

“Yes, there is a component of our communities that maybe don’t see the value of forestry on island and I respect that- that’s their opinion. I believe though that there is a possibility of – and we are doing it, we are currently harvesting what I believe will be sustainable in the long run.” says , Shelagh Farrell, Authorizations And Revenue Technologist For Ministry Of Forests, Lands Natural Resource Development And Rural Development.

She adds, “We work on a two government process. We respect the HN as a government and as its own entity. We interact with the Haida nation as another government.”

“I think what we found is that there’s been a lot of – what I would say was- congratulatory nature of this agreement in 2011, and everybody was very proud they had developed it. It was the first joint decision made, in the province, between a first nations government and a provincial government.” says Daryl Sherban, Resource Manager of Haida Gwaii.

“I think both governments have done an inadequate job of messaging the success of this relationship. People really started to forget how important and how progressive these agreements were. Now, we’re at the point where people look at harvesting and logging and they don’t recognize a difference from ten to fifteen years ago to today – because it looks the same.”

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Finding The Line

There is definitely a disconnect between the logging companies and the community. Reconciliation is an ongoing thing, not just a one time thing – to some, it is seen that the government overstep its boundaries (99 cedars, lawn hill and nadu road etc), but to the other side, it is felt that education is the biggest discrepancy and that the general public jump to conclusions without learning all the facts. There is a lot of legislation in place to protect these companies, but there is also a lot of protection of forests. Demand for the product creates jobs and drives the economy, but harvesting ecosystems can be detrimental according to ecologists.  There are conflicting definitions of what sustainable logging is on either side of the argument – with no clear-cut definition. How much is too much?