ENVIRONMENT. Canada makes progress on new park

Canada's three major political parties accomplished something unusual recently: they agreed. The parties unanimously approved last Thursday a resolution urging the creation of South Moresby Island National Park off the British Columbia (B.C.) coast.

The possibility of establishing the area as a park had moved closer the previous day when Bruce Strachan, B.C. environment minister, said his government had dropped its condition that logging continue for another 10 years in the area. This action removed a major stumbling block to the successful conclusion of negotiations between the provincial government and the federal government on terms for the park.

Tom McMillan, the federal environment minister, noting that negotiations have ``accelerated dramatically in the last few days and ... hours,'' told the House during a special debate called by the opposition New Democratic Party he was optimistic about an agreement.

If achieved, it would wind up an environmental struggle that has frequented the front pages of Canada's newspapers for a decade or so and been a topic in international environmental circles.

At the debate, Mr. McMillan spoke of the hold the 60-mile long ``unique collection'' of islands has on ``the consciousness of Canadians.'' He described this southern half of the Queen Charlotte Islands as ``the most internationally significant treasure in all of Canada.''

During the ice age, these rain-drenched islands were free of ice. Thus they contain some plant and animal species not found elsewhere. They also contain rare virgin forests, with stands of ancient Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir.

One issue of much debate between the federal and provincial negotiators has been the exact boundaries of the park, which, as of late last week, will include all of Lyell Island.

The two sides have also debated compensation for the province. The B.C. government has been talking of $100 million over 10 years for ``economic development'' and $20 million for park operation and infrastructure. It also wants payments to loggers and the logging company involved, Western Forests.

The federal government has also been consulting with leaders of the 2,000 or so Haida Indians on the Queen Charlotte Islands. Most of them live on Graham Island to the north of the park area. But they prize Moresby Island because of its many archeological sites, including Ninstint's Village on Anthony Island at the south of the proposed park. Once a major Haida settlement, UNESCO designated that island with its group of standing totem poles a ``World Heritage Cultural Site.''

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