Islanders request forestry action

Ministry letter defers responsibility to Islands Trust

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Gulf Islands residents made their way to Galiano Island from Salt Spring and Gabriola last Wednesday to ask Islands Trust Council to do more to stop clear-cutting and protect forest cover.

Two delegations made presentations to council on June 19. A group from Salt Spring represented by Susan Hannon addressed the ongoing dispute that started with a 45-acre property on Beddis Road being cleared of its mature forest. The property is split-zoned Agricultural and Residential.

“We’re calling on the Islands Trust to take action on all of the islands to stop clear-cutting on private lands not zoned for forestry. The tools are available; please use them,” Hannon said. “We applaud islands such as Galiano that have enacted regulations to protect our forests, and we urge Trust Council to enact consistent policies against clear-cutting across the entire Trust area.”

While the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee and Trust legal opinion have maintained the local government body has no ability to order logging work be stopped, Hannon referred to a response letter sent to concerned islanders by Jessica Brooks, executive director of the Planning and Land Use Management Branch under the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Brooks wrote that she was sympathetic to islanders’ concerns but said the matter was not in provincial jurisdiction.

A Driftwood request for more information from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing supports the Islands Trust’s position that it is powerless to intervene at present.

The ministry response states the Islands Trust has the ability to establish development permit areas in official community plans and to develop guidelines that would limit tree cutting in those areas. The Local Government Act also gives the Islands Trust the ability to establish tree-cutting bylaws that apply to areas it considers subject to flooding, erosion, land slip or avalanche.

“Unlike municipalities, however, Islands Trust does not have the ability to regulate, prohibit or impose requirements generally in relation to trees outside of the two situations mentioned above,” the ministry email explains, adding, “At this time, the province isn’t considering amending the Local Government Act in relation to tree cutting.”

Tree cutting is currently limited in some development permit areas on Salt Spring, including hazardous slopes, riparian areas and heritage village sites.

A second delegation presented to Trust Council on the forestry issue last week came from Susan Yates, who was representing the Gulf Islands Alliance and is a former Gabriola Island trustee. Yates spoke about the need to protect and restore carbon sinks and the primary mandate of the Islands Trust to preserve and protect the natural environment.

Yates explained the Gulf Islands Alliance exists to support the Trust’s mandate and its work. She said the organization understands the Trust does not have sufficient regulatory powers when it comes to tree-cutting, “except in very rare circumstances as a development permit area.”

“We request Trust Council to ask the appropriate ministry to regulate logging in the Trust Area in a manner that supports the Islands Trust policy and mandate, or to grant the Islands Trust the regulatory tools needed to control forestry activities in the Trust Area,” Yates said.

“The thing is, if the Trust had even just minimal regulatory control over logging, their preserve and protect mandate would actually mean something,” she added after the meeting.

For more on this story, see the June 26, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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