In November 1995, the Ministry of Forests informed local communities
that the forest industry is "hitting the wall" - facing a 30 per
cent shortfall in timber supply Island-wide in 1996. Prospects for 1997
are "worse." The ministry proposed a fast-track local negotiation
process to address the supply crisis, protected area issues, and the communities'
economic concerns. It set a February 1 target for completion, causing some
locals to wonder why they had to solve a problem in three months that the
ministry had let go for years.
Most communities would balk at the prospect of such a hectic schedule. Islanders
decided to take the ministry up on its offer. Once again, leaders from every
one of the local village, municipal and regional district councils got together,
this time to form the Island Community Stability Initiative. ICSI drafted
goals and a set of guiding principles, then went to each community for a
mandate. Its goals are as follows:
- to ensure the long term health of the forest and the stability of
the resource-based economy by establishing an inventory and planning process
to determine sustainable levels of harvest and to establish those levels
within three years.
- to provide greater local employment and economic benefits to communities
through small business forestry interests having greater access to wood.
- to promote processing & manufacturing of timber resources on the
- to ensure a cooperative and responsible forest management system that
incorporates the Island Community's values and knowledge.
- to chart a long-term land-use option for presentation to the Council
of the Haida Nation and the Government of BC that will bring greater certainty
and alleviate resource conflict.
Public support was overwhelming. Dale Lore, a road-builder for MacMillan
Bloedel Ltd. and a Councillor for the Village of Port Clements, participated
in the process. Like others, he felt he had to.
The forest industry on the Islands is a significant employer and is dominated
by four major forest companies. To his dismay, Lore discovered that support
for the companies was dangerously low. Something had to be done.
"What really got me going on this was a preservationist viewpoint -
but the opposite of what you might think - preserving the industry that
I've worked in all my life. Because it looked like it was committing suicide,"
Lore says. "I couldn't get support from 20 per cent of the guys in
the bush to defend the company they worked for. The companies weren't doing
anything to support the communities they were operating in."
Elsewhere on the Islands, unease has become endemic. Residents are worried
about the future in light of what many view as an unsustainable rate of
logging and a lack of long-term, local job prospects in the forest industry.
On February 1, 1996, following more than 2,000 volunteer person-hours of
meetings, ICSI released a 20-page "Consensus Document" - a blueprint
for a new and radically different environment and forest economy on Haida
In the document ICSI notes that Islanders lack confidence that current logging
rates are sustainable, and it calls for immediate changes in how those rates
are set. Furthermore, it recommends that logging be ruled out in several
areas of significance identified by the Council of the Haida Nation.
(The areas may contain 20 per cent of the remaining mature "operable
timber" on the Islands. If the Islands-wide cut was concentrated in
these special areas, they could all be logged in 10 years.)
ICSI further notes that of the two million cubic metres of timber logged
annually on the Islands, under four per cent is processed in local mills.
To end the exodus of valuable, raw logs off the Islands, ICSI calls for
tenure reform, including community-managed forests, expanded opportunities
for local wood processors, and guaranteed on-Islands access to wood, provided
by the establishment of local log markets.
"More economic and employment benefits need to be created out of less
wood," ICSI concludes. "Adding value to timber through processing
and manufacturing creates jobs."
ICSI is but one initiative underway on Haida Gwaii wherein residents are
attempting to reverse present trends and chart a new course for their environment
"What's happening here is revolutionary," says Lore. "The
people of this region have discovered that gurus aren't the answer - outside
experts aren't the answer. If people living here can't come to a consensus
about solving their problems, the problems won't get solved."