SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2001


Public Comment Not Coming

by Ian Lordon

Islanders can be forgiven if they are under the impression the province really doesn't care what they have to say. After all, meetings, letters, public input, petitions, lobbying and complaints by locals have had very little effect on what happens in the woods on Haida Gwaii.

And now, many weeks after over four hundred people personally delivered over six hundred votes of non-confidence to the Forest Service district office, the minister responsible still hasn't bothered to respond.

Several phone calls and e-mails to both the Minister of Forests' office and the Ministry's communications office yielded the usual result: "the Honourable Minster of Forests, Mr. Gordon Wilson, is unavailable for comment."

Victoria is apparently content to let its self-described 'creature of legislation,' district manager Rory Annett, handle all the heat on this one while the political powers that be, those folks we elect and pay to represent the public's interest, continue to ignore the wishes and advice of Islands people.

Given Victoria's indifference, Annett should not feel solely responsible for the indignation he aroused when he greeted the marchers in front of his office on December 8 with the words: "government is listening."

Today, Annett says he plans to keep the ballots from the rally at the district office until they can be presented to Chief Forester Larry Pedersen.

"They're all still here. We date-stamped them with-in minutes, counted them all up, and we're in the process of compiling the ad-hoc comments that were written on some of them," he says. "All of the information will be presented to Larry Pedersen when the time comes."

Shortly after the rally, Annett says he made some calls to inform the Ministry of Forests of what was taking place on the Islands, but he offered little on what was said or to whom.

"I phoned a couple of people and gave them a heads-up on generally what the tone of it was, how many people I thought there were, and what the issues seemed to be. That there was a good number of people who had some concerns about things and that they expressed them," he says. "At that point we hadn't compiled any of the stuff on the ballots, but we had the information that was in the newspapers."

Once the input from the rally is more thoroughly vetted, Annett says the district office will sort the comments and forward them to the parties concerned.

"This affects so many people's areas of responsibility," he says. "I mean the AAC stuff is in the Chief Forester's court, and land-use is in cabinet's court, and issues around the Haida are in the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Indian and Northern Affairs court."

The Unity Rally fell on the last day for public input concerning the Timber Supply Review. When it's completed later this year, the review will determine the new Allowable Annual Cut for the Timber Supply Area on Haida Gwaii. That decision will set the rate at which roughly one quarter of the Islands' forests will be logged every year. Annett says he still hasn't received any indication of when the determination will be made, or where the new AAC will be set.

"Not at this juncture. There's a few options and obviously we've got to make sure we've got all the information properly compiled and the process will bubble along," he says. "In the meantime, the Part 13 (a cabinet order temporarily removing the area of Duu Guusd) has been extended until the end of June. The AAC's been reduced by 114,000 cubic metres and that's taken some pressure off."

Annett says it remains to be seen what response, if any, the demonstration is liable to provoke.
"At this stage of the game government's still assessing it," he says. "There's a lot of challenges here and a lot of competing interests and ultimately there's got to be some measured and reasoned response which isn't going to happen as quickly as we'd all like." ·

photo - Sandy MacDonald

SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2001