Fallers heading to work on a cutblock near New Town yesterday morning found the Old Massett flag and dozens of residents at the gate.
The night before, newly elected Chief Councillor Duffy Edgars went door to door through the village to gather support from chiefs and elders and rally people for a blockade.
About 50 people turned out before the workers arrived at 7:30 a.m.
“I think this is a first for Old Massett — it’s in our own backyard,” Edgars said, noting it’s the first time Old Massett council has opposed such a logging plan.
“All of council was against the logging there, because of the surroundings and because it’s supposed to be part of the community forest.”
Sold by BC Timber Sales in March 2016, the contract includes 15,427 m3 of timber with a stumpage value of $341,688.
O’Brien & Fuerst Logging won the contract, which was approved by the province but not by the Council of the Haida Nation at the Solutions Table.
One of the planned cutblocks is east of New Town, Tlaga Gawtlaas, and Old Massett councillors are concerned that logging it will exacerbate the risk of flooding in the neighbourhood, which already had flooded streets last winter.
However, BCTS contracted a hydrologist who found that logging the cutblock wouldn’t pose any significant risk.
Besides the flooding issue, Old Massett councillors and the Council of the Haida Nation also object to the sale because it is an easy-access, high-value set of cutblocks they would rather benefit the nearby community directly.
When they first rejected the sale in 2016, the CHN said they share an underlying public concern that the most accessible, cedar-rich forests near Haida Gwaii communities are being logged too quickly.
The CHN is also concerned that too much cedar is being targeted, which will lead to a gap when no mature cedar is available for local forestry companies.
Similar issues led to another Solutions Table impasse and CHN “No Logging” signs posted in November by planned cutblocks in the Nadu Road and Lawn Hill areas.
B.C.’s Forests Minister Doug Donaldson was not available for an interview, but a spokesperson said by email that the ministry will try to address the concerns over the coming weeks.
The new NDP government hopes to build on a strong relationship with the CHN and Haida Gwaii communities, the ministry said, noting that Minister Donaldson and local MLA Jennifer Rice met by phone with Haida Nation President Peter Lantin, kil tlaats’gaa, on Nov. 28.
But the ministry also said that current logging is happening closer to Haida Gwaii communities because other areas of special importance were set aside as part of the Haida Gwaii Strategic Land Use Agreement.
The spokesperson noted that 52 per cent of Haida Gwaii is now in protected areas, while another 18.5 per cent is protected through the Haida Gwaii Land-use Objectives Order.
“The logging that people are seeing was developed under one of the strictest land-use orders in the province, creating an extremely robust ecosystem-based management regime,” said the ministry, adding that Haida Gwaii’s annual allowable cut (AAC) is up for review early next year. Local foresters have said they expect the AAC to fall.
On the cedar question, the ministry said the chief forester recognized the problem in 2012 when she set a voluntary cap on cedar harvesting for the major timber operating areas on Haida Gwaii.
“Actual harvests have been within the limits,” said the ministry, with the exception of one area where the chief forester is setting a hard cedar limit on the recommendation of the Haida Gwaii Management Council.