Thursday, August 03, 2006

Native Loggers Threaten Clayoquot Sound

Seven years after the old growth forests of Clayoquot Sound were protected and internationally recognized as a UN Biosphere Reserve, the deal that guaranteed its future has been swept aside to allow the logging of 90,000 hectares in eight valleys.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the company set to log the area is a native controlled business that was set up following the Clayoquot deal to act as stewards of the Biosphere - Iisaak Forest Resources.

...that memorandum -- which gained the logging company unprecedented environmental endorsement in return for agreeing not to log untouched watersheds -- appears now to be in dispute.

Key environmental officials who negotiated the memorandum said yesterday they were shocked to learn that a planning body, the Clayoquot Sound Central Region Board, has approved plans to log more than 90,000 hectares in eight valleys. The plans open the way for logging in Ursus Valley, Clayoquot River Valley and other watersheds, where up to 60 per cent of the timber can be cut.

The 1999 agreement was hailed as a major win for the environmental community. More than that, it possessed the power to act as a symbol not only for environmental values, but for aboriginal values as well.

Through the original Clayoquot agreement, the First Nations community was given a tremendous opportunity to provide clear and uncompromising leadership for the sanctity of our lands, and the integrity of traditional Native values. Instead Iisaak spokespeople are addressing the issue of logging with spin and rhetoric, much as their western industry counterparts would do.

Gary Johnsen, General Manager of Iisaak, said however that he doesn't think the company has violated either the spirit or the letter of that agreement.

He said Iisaak would be interested in logging in the eight valleys, "in an environmentally responsible way," but the company does not yet have any harvesting plans.

Mr. Johnsen said the decision to open the valleys to logging was made by the Central Region Board, not his company, and at any rate the memorandum does not restrict logging in all areas of the valleys, just in untouched areas.

"The watersheds themselves are not all pristine. I would dispute that. Only some areas within the valleys are pristine," he said.

Real leadership would have involved Iisaak honouring the true spirit of the agreement - to protect and preserve the living ecosystem of Clayoquot Sound and hold it up as a living, untouched example of the power and spirituality of nature. Instead Mr. Johnsen has chosen to be an industry apologist for the benefit of his company and profit.

It would be patently wrong to make a broad generalization that the current stance of Iisaak is representative of the First Nations community as a whole. However, the real leaders among First Nations would do well to come forward in a loud and united voice to decry the hypocrisy of Iisaak, while endorsing the inherent value that comes from offering real, dedicated protection for the future of the Clayoquot ecosystem.


Scott said...

Excellent article, I have been trying to gain awareness of the issue in my own blog. We need to work to make sure that the people hear about this so that it can be stopped.


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