Every year, logging companies on Haida Gwaii cut down more than two million
cubic metres of trees from the Islands' depleted old-growth temperate rain
forests. That equates to 57,400 highway truckloads of logs, or a double
line of loaded logging trucks lined bumper-to-bumper from Vancouver to Quesnel.
Ninety-six percent of this wood is barged off the Islands for processing
in distant manufacturing centres including Campbell River, Powell River,
Nanaimo and Vancouver. Because so little of the wood is processed locally,
few social and economic benefits remain for Islands residents.
Many Islanders believe that the region's forests have been overcut. Their
fears are confirmed by the fact that Haida Gwaii's logging companies are
finding it harder and harder to access the timber to support their traditionally
high rates of cut.
Bill Beldessi is a member of the Moresby Island Advisory Planning Commission,
past president of Share BC, and a truck driver for TimberWest, one of the
four big logging companies on the Islands. In his six years of driving a
truck for TimberWest, Beldessi has watched a lot of old-growth trees logged.
Along with Western Forest Products and MacMillan Bloedel, TimberWest has
a TFL on Haida Gwaii. And the volume of timber coming off the TFL is decreasing
"I can't speak for any other TFL except TimberWest, which is on my
Island," Beldessi says. "But we're seeing a downsizing. When I
came here six years ago the cut was in excess of 300,000 cubic metres a
year. Now it's below 150,000 cubic metres and dropping."
While much has been made by forest companies of declining opportunities
due to the protection of old-growth forests, it is important to note that
the drop in TimberWest's cut is not attributable to parks. The nearest protected
area to TimberWest's operations on Haida Gwaii is Gwaii Haanas on southern
Moresby Island. The area was dually declared a Haida Heritage Site and National
Park Reserve eight years ago. TimberWest had no timber-cutting rights in
Like others, Beldessi is concerned about today's declining logging rates.
The forest industry is still the major source of employment on Haida Gwaii
but it is not diversified to any meaningful extent. There are only two small
sawmills, both of which operate sporadically and consume a tiny amount of
the timber logged annually.
Unless the industry lowers the rate of cut and diversifies so that more
of the remaining timber is made available to smaller and more labour-intensive
logging and milling operations, Beldessi and others believe the local economy
is in deep trouble.
"We want to start to process more wood on-Island," says Beldessi.
"We think that will more than cover the loss of jobs [that could result
from a lower AAC]. We have young people leaving the Islands in droves. There's
no opportunity here. There used to be jobs in the woods and jobs in the
fishing industry. But not so much anymore."