An interview with Dave Putterill
How long have you lived in Sandspit?
We've lived here 22 years, We lived in Thurston Harbour originally, the
Frank Beban Logging camp there. 1973 in Sandspit originally. Its quite a
What were your reasons for the move?
The reason for staying on the islands basically, was just the sheer wildness
of it all. We were living in Port Alberni and Frank Beban phoned us up and
offered us a job in a logging camp, on the Queen Charlotte Islands. He was
interested in a teacher. A friend of ours, who was working for Frank, recommended
Audrey (Dave's spouse), and the next thing you know we're up on the Charlottes.
Are the things you moved here for, still here? Do you continue to live
here for the same reasons?
Sandspit is physically a really beautiful community, and there is lots of
work opportunity. It's a really easy place to settle into. Are the things
we moved here for still here? I guess they are to a point.
I was one of the few loggers in town, if not the only one that was openly
in support of a park being made of the South Moresby. Of course at the time
that I was rooting for that, the Forest Practices Code was such that you
just couldn't support any logging down there. Now perhaps, having been exposed
to Parks Canada I wonder at which was the lesser of two evils. And today
with the present Forest Practices Code, I think that probably we could have
had the best of both worlds. We could have preserved the best of this and
logged a bit of that, and got on with life. But that's all history now.
Do you see yourselves as permanent residents?
Hmm, I think so. Although, I don't know, I'm obviously starting to see it
differently because of the illness I've got, and the fact that I've reduced
mobility. I'm wondering whether the Islands might not seem really small,
because physically I'm not able to do the things I came here to do. But
I don't know how that's going to work out, that's something only time will
What do you enjoy about the community now?
I've always appreciated the people on the Islands. I find them to be a pretty
friendly bunch, for the most part, pretty helpful, quite supportive. I've
especially noticed that since I've been sick. There's a lot of support here.
You don't realize how many friends you've got, though in small communities
its very obvious when you need it.
Did you have that difficulty adjusting when you came here?
Not at all. I left Liverpool, and I had had enough of big cities. Every
time I go to Vancouver or any big city, the novelty wears off in about two-and-a-half-hours.
And if I don't have a reason for being there, buying something, or some
sort of medical treatment, I want to get the next plane out of there.
Do you have any sense what Sandspit might be like, might look like, in
the next 10 years, the next 25?
When you [earlier] touched on things like the Dover Trail, and the spit,
as a sort of nature walk for people who are interested in bird life and
wild life-I think that we should, as a community, really develop these types
of things. Tie this into the fact that we would hope to get a lot of visitors
in the summertime utilizing the dock. Make this, our good weather and really
beautiful beaches a feature of the community. I know that in the community
there's some resistance to [promoting] things like bird life on the spit.
People see it as restricting their access with their four-wheel vehicles,
but I think it's something we've got to work out as a community and become
mature about. It's a real asset, and we don't realize how valuable it is.
Do you see a future for the timber-related industries here?
Yes I do. And I think it's really important that we keep a focus on that,
as long as we develop the nature and tourism side of it. I think that it
would be really sad to see [Sandspit become] solely a tourist town, because
I don't like what that leads to. Look a few generations down the road: what
are you if you are solely a tourist guide? It's got a hollow ring to it.
I'm not interested in that. But I'm interested in that as an adjunct to
a fairly solid forest industry.
Hopefully, local entrepreneurs will develop along the lines of secondary
industry. What that would be, I don't know, some form of manufacturing,
or re-manufacturing. That would be up to the local entrepreneur, or perhaps
money from outside. I think we are always going to see some type of forestry
here. There is nothing but trees out there, and there's always been a demand
for it, and hopefully there always will be.
The silvicultural side to it could be a boon to the community. It'll be
interesting to see how that goes.There is no doubt about it, [the forest
industry is] the mainstay breadwinner of the community. Despite the fact
we get a bum rap now and then, loggers are skilled people with a long and
proud history. How many industries do you see that actually set aside a
day every year to go and play at that industry. We're proud of our skills.
There's a long history there, and its part of British Columbia's and Canada's
history. There is nothing more Canadian than a logger. What would we be
if we were just a bunch of people who catered to tourists. In my opinion
there is no soul there. A lot of people would differ, but I think that the
woods industry has a proud history, and if done right, and it seems to be
going that way, with these new forest practices codes, we have nothing to
be ashamed of, and should develop it to the full.
Do you see a downturn in the Sandspit economy? I wonder how long the
larger operators are going to be around for, and if the smaller entrepreneurs
will be able to kick in fast enough?
I think the big guys right now are playing politics. I think we're just
seeing an adjustment to the Forest Practices Code. The reason we're seeing
that glitch in Charlotte [with the closure of the Skidegate log sort] right
now, is not so much a shortage of wood in that area, but a shortage of access
to wood. And this is politics. This is the game these companies play: lay
off 20 guys, put a bit of pressure on, and 6 months later we'll see how
that plays out. The same games are being played in Sandspit with access
to places like Government Creek. Whether or not you believe in the rightness
of logging that area, it boils down to politics.
I think the new Forest Practices Code is basically going in the right direction,
but I think that it's bureaucratically top heavy. And its not running smooth
enough. The mechanism for making it run a little bit smoother is the political
shenanigans of the big companies, its the only way they can play: we've
got to lay off 20 guys, boo hoo, write a letter to your M.P. sort of thing.
We're all basically in the same boat, the companies and the guys that work
for them, there's quite a bit of sympathy going both ways. It is a bureaucratic
mess. But the working nuts and bolts of it are not bad. I think that even
most loggers feel that way. I don't think we're cynical about it. I think
most people in the bush, bar a few crackpots, think it's timely. They just
don't like the bullshit that goes with it.
Are you optimistic about the community then?
I'm optimistic. I know that the cut (Annual Allowable Cut) is slowly being
reduced. That has to be. I know there are going to be fewer jobs. There
are going to be fewer jobs because the companies are talking about all sorts
of technological change. The companies are talking about feller-bunchers,
and helicopter logging. But basically what we have to do in the community
is insist that the people that operate these new technologically advanced
jobs are people that come from the community. Not import silvicultural crews,
or helicopter logging crews. The people in the community can be trained
to do it no problem.
Besides the bureaucracy of the Forest Practices Code do you see any other
impediments to Sandspit being a healthy community.
I think that while on a personal level you can get an awful lot of support
here when you need it, when it comes to politics and which direction the
community goes, we often seem to be really polarized. It seems to me that
people's personal issues get in the way of progress in this community. I
would like to see us incorporate. I don't think that's a majority view.
I'm not scared of incorporation-simply because you have more control over
your local amateur politicians. My feeling is that we are not particularly
well served by the Regional District. I think that what would be good for
this community is more say locally and politically, and more access to finances.
The way I see it right now, we basically don't exist as far as the powers-that-be
are concerned. I think that we have to take the step of incorporating which
will cost us as individuals some freedoms and perhaps some revenue will
disappear out of our bank accounts in local taxes. I think that until we
do that we really can't complain about our political shortcomings. It's
a tradeoff. But at least we would have some control over our local politicians:
i.e. 'cut the mustard, or your out of it.'
The Greater Masset area has to do exactly the same thing that we are going
to have to do. They are going to have to develop the potential that they
have, go there for tourism and they're also going to have to fight tooth
and nail to access the woods industry in the Duu Guusd area, and the area
currently controlled by Husby, are basically, as far as I'm concerned, their
forestry birthright and they should have access to it. That's something
that all the other communities on the Islands should support them in.
Another thing I'd like to see more of on these Islands is the development
of this community forests idea. I think that this is a positive thing. What's
positive about it is, the communities at least seem to understand that we
have to support each other and not have this community rivalry that we often
have. I do see a lot of undercurrents of people who are trying to undermine
this process. I like to see the inter-community support.
Do you see any positive developments on the horizon that would help the
community to grow and thrive?
I see a slow development based on the spit, the harbour, the trails, and
hopefully on the silvicultural activity and the logging activity. But I
see that what's good for Sandspit is good for all the communities. Just
the fact that there's some coming-together of the communities in relation
to the community forest thing. Without that community feeling Island-wide
I think that all of the communities will suffer. That is really important.
I've lived in Sandspit for 20 plus years, but I've always seen myself as
[The interviewer makes the point that many of the people on the islands
still think of their own town or village as 'the' community. They tend not
to think of the Islands as a whole as one not-so-big community. At this
point Audrey joins in.]
Audrey: A lot of people here still don't think of themselves as Islanders.
They look upon themselves as being here on a temporary basis. Whether that's
ten, twenty years, a lot of people don't see themselves here for life. Its
just that mentality: "why should I have any say in this because I don't
really live here. I'm just here for a while."
Dave: We seem to be getting top heavy with bureaucratic jobs on the
Islands and most of those people accept that they're only here for a couple
of years. I think that lends a flavour that's not very healthy to the Islands.
Audrey: But there are lots of people who have spent many, many years
here who still talk about "when they get out of here," and in
my opinion I don't feel that they think they're really a part of the community.
[At this point Bubby and Wesley Pearson drive up for a visit and a cup of
tea, and the interview ends.]