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.

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