Islanders rally for forest reform

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Salt Spring Islanders joined communities across the province who took to the streets Saturday morning to call for reforms to forestry practices and a more sustainable industry.

Jean Wilkinson, who was one of the community members involved on Salt Spring, said initial estimates are that 150 people turned out for some portion of the morning, whether that was for the speakers in the library, the march itself to Centennial Park, or both. Organizers had readied 216 postcards addressed to MLA Adam Olsen, Premier John Horgan and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson, and all were filled out by the participants at the event.

“I think the fact that there are a multitude of communities throughout the province basically saying the same thing might be helpful in convincing the government they actually have to do something,” Wilkinson said.

Many of the marches taking place in other parts of British Columbia had a local issue driving community concerns, but all were united in asking for better legislation and oversight when it comes to the forest industry. Salt Springers were partly motivated by the recent upswell in clear-cutting of private acreages on the island.

“We’re just liquidating our natural heritage, really,” Wilkinson said, adding individual private land owners may profit from selling their timber, but their neighbours have to pay the costs through noise disturbance, long-term drainage issues and loss of property values. “And the ecosystem impacts are huge.”

Some amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act were announced on April 1, which the government said would “support the health and sustainability of B.C.’s forests and range lands, while strengthening public confidence in how these vital resources are managed.”

Speaking at Saturday’s march, environmentalist Briony Penn said the new NDP government has not done anything really different than their Liberal predecessors when it comes to sustainable forestry or ecosystem protection. She pointed to a few potential bright spots in new requirements for public consultation related to forest stewardship plans and operation planning, including the proposed location of cut-blocks and roads but not the bigger changes needed.

For more on this story, see the April 10, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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