Weyerhaeuser to be picketed - Canadian Natives want more say over Queen Charlotte Islands timber

Last updated: April 21st, 2005 02:40 AM

Weyerhaeuser’s logging operations on a British Columbia island have been idle for much of the last month as protesters blocked workers from harvesting timber or transporting logs.

These protesters plan to bring their complaints about management of a region known as Haida Gwaii to the company’s annual meeting at its Federal Way headquarters today. The Haida Nation has nominated Guujaaw, president of the council of the Haida, to the company’s board of directors.

The conflict between the forest products company and the residents around its operations stems from a longtime battle between the Haida Nation and the B.C. government over who controls the ancient timber on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

The Native people want more control over the management of the forests and more oversight of timber companies. Their cause has been adopted by environmentalists who hope to pressure Weyerhaeuser into changing the way the company harvests old-growth trees.

It’s a dispute on land the company is getting rid of. Weyerhaeuser announced in February that it planned to sell the sawmills and 600,000 acres of timberlands it owned on the islands for nearly $1 billion. The transaction triggered anger from members of the Haida Nation who claimed they weren’t consulted about the sale and weren’t allowed to comment.

Residents surrounding the logging operations set up roadblocks to keep Weyerhaeuser workers from cutting down trees or removing logs. They say that logging companies are making money off trees that should be theirs and that the B.C. government is not monitoring the operations as it should.

Weyerhaeuser spokesman Frank Mendizabal said loggers haven’t been able to get to their equipment for several weeks.

“Once a day one of our harvest managers asks, ‘Are you going to let us work today?’ They say ‘no’ and we say ‘OK,’” he said.

Last Friday the roadblocks were removed while Haida Nation representatives negotiated with government representatives, said Haida member Bob Mills, who was acting as spokesman for Island Spirit Rising Committee.

“Even though the checkpoints are down we maintain a presence,” he said.

Mendizabal said Weyerhaeuser has ongoing discussion with the Haida Nation about a range of issues. Both groups met Wednesday and plan further discussions today.

“They have approved every harvest we have done up there,” he said.

But the company had no responsibility to let the Nation know of the upcoming sale. That’s something the Nation and the B.C. government need to work out, he said.

The Rainforest Action Network has adopted the cause and organized the Federal Way protest as well as protests at the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

More than 50 activists were expected at today’s annual meeting, said Brant Olson, campaign director for Rainforest Action Network. About a dozen were going into the meeting. The rest would congregate on the north side of the company’s campus.

Marcelene Edwards: 253-597-863


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