SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2002

SpruceRoots Magazine - July 2002

Clear cut on TFL 39 - currently held by
Weyerhaueser Canada
The Overcut

by Ian Lordon

One of the most long-standing and contentious issues to emerge from the forests on Haida Gwaii revolves around the rate at which the forests themselves are logged, or rate of cut. The rate of cut is usually expressed in the form of an Annual Allowable Cut, or AAC. The AAC is the volume of wood, measured in cubic metres, a tenure-holder is permitted to harvest from a certain area each year.

Local residents have long believed the forests on Haida Gwaii are being logged far too rapidly, that the AAC is too high. The old growth forests which provided work for the Islands over the last century are vanishing, and the majority were logged in the last thirty years. Because trees need at least eighty years to grow large enough to produce marketable timber, island people are worried that once the remaining old growth is gone, the jobs provided by the forest will disappear until the trees grow back, a phenomenon forestry analysts call ‘falldown.’ The faster we harvest our forests today, the sooner falldown will arrive, and the longer it will last.

The most obvious and accepted means of avoiding a falldown in the forest industry is to lower the rate of cut to a point that is sustainable. In other words, lower the AAC so the remaining old growth is cut slowly enough to ensure there is a large supply of good second growth available to support the same number of jobs once the old growth is gone.

For years Haida Gwaii residents have lobbied provincial governments and the Ministry of Forests to lower the AAC on the islands to a sustainable rate with little success. Early in 1996 these efforts culminated in the signing of the Islands Community Stability Initiative’s Consensus document, an agreement among all of the communities on Haida Gwaii to protect certain areas from development while reducing the AAC elsewhere to secure future economic opportunities in local forests.

Government responded by offering a community forest for Haida Gwaii in one of the Protected Areas mentioned in the Consensus document, but apart from a temporary cabinet order reducing the cut in the Timber Supply Area by close to a quarter, the provincial Ministry of Forests has done little to address the overcutting of iIsland forests over the long term.

For their part, the major tenure holders on-island struggle to harvest at historical rates with the exception of Weyerhaeuser Canada. Weyerhaeuser, Haida Gwaii’s largest operator with rights to nearly half of all trees cut on the Islands every year, has voluntarily reduced its annual harvest from the 1.2-million cubic metres it’s entitled to, to less than 800,000 cubic metres in recent years. Some cynical observers suggest this reduction is more a reflection of the challenges now facing the company in its attempts to locate and access harvestable timber than it is a desire to please local communities. If correct, this could mean the predicted falldown is already upon us. •

One of the most long-standing and contentious issues to emerge from the forests on Haida Gwaii revolves around the rate at which the forests themselves are logged, or rate of cut. The rate of cut is usually expressed in the form of an Annual Allowable Cut, or AAC. The AAC is the volume of wood, measured in cubic metres, a tenure-holder is permitted to harvest from a certain area each year.

Local residents have long believed the forests on Haida Gwaii are being logged far too rapidly, that the AAC is too high. The old growth forests which provided work for the Islands over the last century are vanishing, and the majority were logged in the last thirty years. Because trees need at least eighty years to grow large enough to produce marketable timber, island people are worried that once the remaining old growth is gone, the jobs provided by the forest will disappear until the trees grow back, a phenomenon forestry analysts call ‘falldown.’ The faster we harvest our forests today, the sooner falldown will arrive, and the longer it will last.

The most obvious and accepted means of avoiding a falldown in the forest industry is to lower the rate of cut to a point that is sustainable. In other words, lower the AAC so the remaining old growth is cut slowly enough to ensure there is a large supply of good second growth available to support the same number of jobs once the old growth is gone.

For years Haida Gwaii residents have lobbied provincial governments and the Ministry of Forests to lower the AAC on the islands to a sustainable rate with little success. Early in 1996 these efforts culminated in the signing of the Islands Community Stability Initiative’s Consensus document, an agreement among all of the communities on Haida Gwaii to protect certain areas from development while reducing the AAC elsewhere to secure future economic opportunities in local forests.

Government responded by offering a community forest for Haida Gwaii in one of the Protected Areas mentioned in the Consensus document, but apart from a temporary cabinet order reducing the cut in the Timber Supply Area by close to a quarter, the provincial Ministry of Forests has done little to address the overcutting of iIsland forests over the long term.

For their part, the major tenure holders on-island struggle to harvest at historical rates with the exception of Weyerhaeuser Canada. Weyerhaeuser, Haida Gwaii’s largest operator with rights to nearly half of all trees cut on the Islands every year, has voluntarily reduced its annual harvest from the 1.2-million cubic metres it’s entitled to, to less than 800,000 cubic metres in recent years. Some cynical observers suggest this reduction is more a reflection of the challenges now facing the company in its attempts to locate and access harvestable timber than it is a desire to please local communities. If correct, this could mean the predicted falldown is already upon us. •

SpruceRoots Magazine - July 2002