For too long, says Robert DuDoward the chair of the Haida Nation's
Forestry Branch, forestry on Haida Gwaii has been dominated by big companies
with volume-based tenures. The end result, is a dramatically depleted resource
and vanishing options for this and future generations.
"Over the years, the Haida Nation has identified areas that are to
remain intact, and has called for a 50 percent reduction in cut. We have
to have options for our future, and that's what our call for a reduced cut
and more protected areas represents: options for future generations,"
By reducing the amount of trees logged annually on Haida Gwaii and by turning
forest tenures over to the communities, DuDoward and others believe that
greater community stability and economic sustainability will be achieved.
Moreover, it will help end the decades-long arrangements that many believe
have worked to the advantage of big forest companies and the expense of
both the local and the provincial economies.
In exchange for the timber they cut, the forest companies operating on Haida
Gwaii make "stumpage" payments to the BC government. The amount
of money collected is determined by the government using a complex appraisal
system. Under the formula, the government can lower the fees assessed the
companies by taking into account a number of costs associated with the logging
and transporting of timber. One allowance of great concern to Islanders
is the transportation allowance. Forest companies are allowed to claim the
cost of hauling their logs to distant mills to reduce the stumpage fees
In recent months those "haul allowances" have averaged $7.77 per
cubic metre. When that allowance or subsidy is applied to the volume annually
logged on the Islands, it works out to $15.5 million. This has lead more
than one local resident to conclude that government policies actually encourage
the export of raw materials off Haida Gwaii. Such an allowance has the added
effect of discouraging local processing, because it rewards licensees for
not establishing mills on the Islands.
The other issue of great concern to local residents relates to the lack
of an open market for timber or logs. Blessed with long-term forest tenures
providing them exclusive access to almost all of the best wood, the big
forest companies operating on Haida Gwaii are sheltered from the forces
of supply and demand. They don't have to compete for what they cut. The
end result, says Jim Abbott, owner of the Abfam Enterprises Ltd. sawmill
in Port Clements, is that the province doesn't collect anywhere near what
it should for the timber that is cut.
"Total stumpage collected from all forest licensees on the Islands
in 1993 was $33.6 million. The market value of the timber was $238 million.
The province collected only 14% of the actual value of the resource,"
says Abbott. "It would be interesting to know, when all the expenses
and revenues are taken into account, whether the public actually paid the
companies to cut the timber."
Abfam Enterprises Ltd. and QCI Sawmills Ltd. (in nearby Masset) are the
the two biggest local sawmills on the Islands. Between them, they once employed
62 people. For 10 years, both mills had guaranteed supplies of timber through
"non-replaceable" licences awarded by the Ministry of Forests.
But the licences have lapsed, making it difficult for either company to
operate with any certainty of future
For obvious reasons, Abbott wants that situation changed. He would like
to see "all existing TFLs and major licences in the TSA on Haida Gwaii
cancelled and re-offered as Community Tree Farm Licences." Timber rates
would be publicly bid on, of short duration, and would be for a wide range
of timber volumes.
A new "Islands Forestry Agency" would sell and administer timber
tenures, Abbott says. Local mills and remanufacturing plants would need
10-year licences providing them with 75 percent of their fibre needs, and
they would rely on local auctions through a local log market for the balance
of their needs.
"Primary and secondary manufacturing facilities would be built to meet
the capacity of local harvesting levels. They would be owned and operated
by residents, with any joint ventures to be limited to 49% outside ownership,"
Abbott is the first to admit his proposals may seem self-serving. But the
reality is that his mill and QCI Sawmills can do what the big tenure holders
on Haida Gwaii have consistently failed to do - provide local people with
local employment in locally owned and operated mills and manufacturing plants.
"Companies that have done a good job and have kept their promises to
local people are not getting their licences renewed," Abbott says of
the loss of the Abfam and QCI Sawmills' licences. Meanwhile, the rapid logging
of Haida Gwaii's old-growth forests proceeds with predictable environmental,
social and economic consequences.
"Current cut levels are not sustainable. The wrong profile of the timber
is being siphoned off (highgrading). Massive clearcuts scar the land, the
low value stands are being ignored. Silviculture practices are not creating
a healthy new forest. The wealth from the resource is being siphoned off
to Victoria, Vancouver and multi-national companies," Abbott says.
Abbott and others believe the wealth is there to sustain a vibrant forest
economy on Haida Gwaii. It's a forest economy that will look a lot different
than today, because it will be based on a lower, but sustainable rate of