In November 1994, BC's Ministry of Forests released a "socio-economic
analysis" of the Queen Charlotte Timber Supply Area on Haida Gwaii.
The report followed publication of a Timber Supply Review which came to
the sobering conclusion that current logging rates in the Timber Supply
Area are more than double the long-term "sustainable" level.
The socio-economic analysis, prepared by the Ministry's Economics and Trade
Branch, provides readers with several important statistics on forest industry
activity on Haida Gwaii. Among the most telling facts presented is that
94 percent of all the trees logged on the Islands are barged to the Lower
Mainland or Vancouver Island for processing. This confirms what Islanders
have long known: far too many of the jobs and other social and economic
benefits derived from the two million cubic metres of timber logged every
year go to non-Island residents.
Faced with a certain and substantial drop in future logging rates, many
Haida Gwaii residents have come to the conclusion that it's time the forest
industry in their region was restructured.
In 1994, barges loaded with 12,00 cubic metres of logs left the shores
of Haida Gwaii three times a week --- taking away a total of over $200,000,000
worth of raw logs and four out of five jobs derived from the cut.
This sentiment is acknowledged time and again by the authors of the socio-economic
analysis. They note that a majority of Haida Gwaii's community representatives
believe that annual logging rates are "too high." Their concerns
include logging within the three Tree Farm Licences (TFLs) on the Islands
and the Timber Supply Area (TSA). Almost all those interviewed by the report's
authors said that they want the Allowable Annual Cut (AAC) on Haida Gwaii
"reduced immediately, especially within the TSA."
The report notes that local people "are concerned that reductions in
timber harvesting will either directly, or indirectly, undermine the health
and viability of their communities." But then it goes on to say that
many community leaders on Haida Gwaii believe jobs can be maintained, even
increased, if substantive changes are made in the way the forest industry
conducts its affairs on the archipelago.
Community representatives "believe that local employment and community
stability can be maintained in the face of timber harvest reductions if
policy [and] legislative changes are introduced to increase the amount of
timber processed on the QCI (Queen Charlotte Islands)," the report
says, adding that "unanimity seems to exist around the desire for increased
on-Islands processing of locally harvested timber."
Among other things, this BCWild report examines how the present forest tenure
and timber-pricing systems work to the disadvantage of local residents by
undervaluing the old-growth trees now logged on the Islands. By allowing
forest companies to offset their timber-cutting charges by deducting the
cost of barging their logs to off-Island mills, the provincial government
is foregoing millions of dollars in revenues. Low stumpage charges and the
current timber-tenure system also work against local sawmill operators who
are unable to secure their own timber-cutting licences. Denied the security
of long-term licences, local mill owners depend upon competitive timber
sales, where they pay five times as much as the big licensees for the same
quality of wood - only to be outbid by surrogates acting for the major companies
with their large capital reserves.
This publication quantifies how much timber is currently cut by the four
major forest companies operating on Haida Gwaii, and details the full-time
logging and milling jobs generated by that cut. It concludes that four out
of every five direct jobs derived from the close to two million cubic metres
of timber logged annually on the Islands go to people who don't live there.
The report also provides baseline information about Haida Gwaii at a time
when residents are struggling to come to grips with the overcutting of the
forests. However, many of the trends noted here apply to other remote areas
of BC, where residents often find it's their resources that fuel the economies
of communities far removed from where the logging takes place.