Viewpoint: Logging fight continues

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By JEAN WILKINSON

Since our last update in April regarding efforts to stop clear-cutting on Salt Spring, our committee met a number of times, received a brush-off letter from the provincial government, wrote again to the premier and key cabinet ministers, (no response yet) made a presentation to Islands Trust Council’s quarterly meeting and gathered a lot more information. 

A postcard campaign to Premier John Horgan, Opposition Leader Andrew Weaver and our MLA Adam Olsen called for an immediate suspension of clear-cutting and support for the Trust to carry out its “preserve and protect” mandate.

While we continue to press the Local Trust Committee to find a way to stop the loss of our forests, we’ve realized this also requires changes to provincial legislation. The law firm that was recommended to us for issuing an injunction when the logging operation started up again had based their legal opinion on violations of the Islands Trust bylaws. However, this was not helpful, because timber extraction on private property remains under the jurisdiction of the province and repeated attempts by municipalities to allow them to regulate logging have been refused by the provincial government.

Therefore, we need the government of B.C. to institute forest practices legislation ensuring environmental protection on private land. Consideration must be given to preservation of sensitive ecosystems, protection of watersheds and riparian zones, erosion control, carbon sequestration to mitigate the climate crisis and regulations banning clear-cutting. As it stands now, and as incredible as it may seem, a property owner has the right to clear-cut land from boundary to boundary with complete disregard for even the most rudimentary of the Forest Practices Code legislation that applies to the timber industry. The provincial government must also recognize an obligation to protect neighbouring property owners affected by a logging operation regarding noise pollution, impacts on water, and reduction of property values.

On Sept. 10 we met with Olsen and laid out specific requests for provincial action in this regard. We explained that the unique structure and “preserve and protect” mandate of the Islands Trust makes it possible and necessary for the province to allow more regulation of logging and the authority to ensure enforcement by our local government. Concerns regarding water issues, related impacts on affordable housing, economic development, tourism, environmental degradation and loss of our forests’ mitigating effects on climate change were outlined.

Olsen thanked us for our advocacy, agreed with our points and discussed various aspects of this with us.  He suggested that the most efficient way to protect Gulf Islands forests is to convince the Minister of Municipal Affairs to change the Local Government Act to allow the Islands Trust to regulate tree-cutting. He will make this a focus during the five-week fall session of the legislature from mid-October to early November. Our task will be to build public support for this, and we have started a petition: 

If you can help gather signatures or know of a public place to make this petition available to sign, please contact us (jdwilkin@telus.net).

The writer is part of a group of citizens working to stop clear-cut logging on Salt Spring.

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