Editorial: Valuable resources

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As the need to act rather than just talk about fighting climate change becomes more apparent, government inaction in certain sectors is puzzling.

Take the issue of clear-cut logging on private land in the Islands Trust Area. For almost a year, a group of Salt Spring residents have pressed the provincial government to do something to stop trees from falling.

Official responses pass the buck back to the Islands Trust, which holds local land-use planning authority. Government bureaucrats penning such responses are clearly unaware of the reality of how toothless the Trust really is when it comes to the clear-cut logging question.

Every time large tracts of land are deforested on one of the Gulf Islands, the rare but important Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem disappears a little more. The province has given special protected status to the Islands Trust Area, yet its powers to regulate one of the major ecological assets is hampered by a suite of laws that favour resource harvesting over conservation.

As Driftwood reporter Elizabeth Nolan found in her three-part series called “Stumped,” which we published in July, the Islands Trust’s existing land-use planning tools against private land clear-cut logging are limited. More worrying, B.C. law states no local regulations apply to the 1,000 acres with Privately Managed Forest Land status located on Salt Spring. 

We could not say it any better than a group of island residents who recently wrote to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson and other B.C. government ministers: “It is beyond ironic that a local government established by the province to ‘preserve and protect’ a region is denied this basic authority.”

The lack of controls on clear-cutting is another stark example of how Canadian governments at all levels are declaring their commitment to fight climate change, all while letting business continue on as usual.

A commitment from the province to at least look at giving local governments stronger legislative tools to protect tree cover is overdue. But without putting in the tough work at the local level to create new development permit areas, increase setbacks to protect forest cover and/or other measures unpalatable to the individual property owner, clear-cuts will continue to be a problem.

1 Comment
  1. shelley mahoney says

    Salt Spring has some serious problems and logging private land is just not one of them. NIMBY folks are the problem ranting in their wooden chairs, in their wooden house on their cleared land wasting everyone’s local governance time and money.

    In British Columbia, 95% of the land base is publicly owned. Approximately 5% is privately owned, less than 2% is private forest land. We lose more forests to fire than logging every year.

    The editorial and a letter to the editor talk about “passing the buck” which is simply not true. in total, Private Managed Forest Lands are bound by over 35 different legislative regulations including:
    Federal Fisheries Act
    Forest Management Regulation
    Water Sustainability Act
    Fish Protection Act
    Drinking Water Protection Act
    Fish Protection Act
    Private Managed Forest Land Regulation
    Wildlife Act
    Species at Risk Act
    Soil Conservation Act

    It would be smarter to allocate local governance resources, time and energy to real solutions like non motorized roadways and free transit – the real cure for climate change – or to double down on fire safety measures before some fool makes all the chatter meaningless with an inferno that puts us all in a position of needing some logs to rebuild our homes.

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