Editorial: Trees and the Trust

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Few issues raise public alarm in the Gulf Islands more than clear-cut logging.

In the past 30 years, clear-cutting undertaken by the former MacMillan Bloedel company on Galiano, Weldwood and the Texada Land Corporation on Salt Spring, and by First Nations on their Mayne and Saturna islands have prompted major public responses.

As private land logging has stepped up locally in recent months, the Islands Trust has come under fire for not appearing to ride into battle with swinging swords to slay the perpetrators. Critics suggest the Trust’s inspiring “preserve and protect” mandate and some legal wrangling should be all that is necessary to quell buzzing chainsaws. But the Trust has been down this road many times in its 46-year history, and hit the same wall: Despite its lofty-sounding mandate, the Trust cannot interfere with forestry activities or stop private property owners from cutting down trees on their lands unless those areas fall within certain development permit areas.

In light of the reason for the Trust’s existence, the lack of power granted to it when it comes to tree cutting does seem absurd. But as with many issues, it’s not until a situation appears dire that people or governments respond. Clear-cut logging had not been on the public radar in the islands for several years, and Islands Trust work programs both at area-wide and local levels are always filled with other pressing issues.

Islands Trust staff have responded to concerns by compiling a report that outlines some ways the Coastal Douglas-fir Zone can be protected. Options may not include swiftly applied court injunctions but they are steps that could be taken by all Local Trust Committees and Trust Council, and which council adopted at a recent meeting.

Most involve making CDF Zone protection a top priority in Trust work plans, official community plan amendments and through other means. The report suggests development permit areas could be created to specifically protect the CDF Zone and associated ecosystems.

About a dozen years ago a suggestion to include all of Salt Spring into a development permit area was met with fierce opposition. As the idea of preserving trees to slow climate change gains traction, at least introducing a CDF Zone development permit area may find favour among the electorate. 

The Trust now has a blueprint for some change, but it’s up to the public to state whether or not they support it.

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