Interfor has temporarily ceased its logging operation in the Dean Channel and has publicly stated it has no intention of logging Labouchere Channel anytime in the near future.
The company obtained a timber license for the area in 1997 and had started logging in a cutblock above Brynildsen Bay in the Dean Channel about two weeks ago, but has since stopped. Cutblocks are also mapped out in Labouchere Channel, but the company has stated that they will not be harvesting timber in that area until discussions with the Nuxalk Nation are finalized.
The entire operation consists of six cutblocks, four in Labouchere and two in the Dean Channel. One cutblock above Brynildsen Bay, in the Dean Channel, backs directly onto private property currently being operated as a tourism business by Valley residents. In response to their concerns, Interfor agreed to cease operations until a consensus had been reached.
“We started logging in the Dean Channel but stopped to address the needs of landowners,” said Karen Brandt, Interfor’s Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Director. “After discussions with them, we can now confirm that the block nearest to their property will be about one-third less to address their concerns regarding visuals and their waterline.”
Interfor has stated that their plan is to log 15,000 cubic metres in the Dean Channel beginning in June, with an approximate 30 percent retention of the timber in each cutblock. Interfor maintains that these are smaller logging operations, utilizing helicopters to remove the timber once it has been felled, and that there will be no roads or clearcuts.
“Our plan is to use a helicopter to yard out the timber,” said Brandt. “We are aware there are sensitive times during fishing and eco-tourism, so we are not going to run the helicopters until mid-September.”
In spite of Interfor’s current conciliatory approach, their relationship with the residents of Bella Coola remains strained by negative experiences in the past. In 2003, the CCRD and the Nuxalk Nation issued a Notice of Eviction to Interfor, Kwatna Timber, and Helifor Ltd. after ‘losses of nine million dollars due to the closure of Interfor’s Mid Coast office and the closing of the Mid Coast Forest District offices.’
“I cannot comment directly on the past as it predates my time with Interfor,” said Brandt. “As far as I’m concerned, we are dealing with today. We are committed to understanding the community’s needs and making sure we maintain an open line of communication.”
At the time of the eviction notice, the CCRD and the Nuxalk Nation were particularly incensed by Interfor’s decision to send in outside contractors to harvest the remaining timber on their forest license tenure while the Valley languished in unemployment.
When questioned about their current practices in employing local people, Brandt stated that due to the highly specialized nature of the timber removal, most of Interfor’s crew would be brought into the site on the Dean Channel.
“We do have a falling crew of about 12 people, of which a few are local to Bella Coola,” said Brandt. “However, we do expect more employment opportunities once the yarding begins.”
Interfor says that the Nuxalk are aware of its plans to continue their operation in the Dean Channel and that there is open dialogue between the two parties regarding plans to log in Labouchere. “It’s an ongoing process,” said Brandt. “We have no intention of logging there anytime in the near future.”
Chief Councilor Wally Webber of the Nuxalk Nation said that there has been continuing consultation with Interfor for the past year, but that the Nuxalk band council still remains strongly opposed to any plans to log in Labouchere.
“We have traditionally used Labouchere for fishing and cultural forestry practices such as harvesting cedar,” said Webber. “Just few years ago our Nuxalk fisherman harvested boat stems there, and we traditionally food fished and lived there to build canoes. So, we are not in support of any logging in Labouchere.”