Viewpoint: Trust lacks forestry powers

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By SUSAN YATES

I am concerned about Peter McAllister’s comments in the April 3 Driftwood regarding the recent clear-cut logging on Salt Spring.   

No one could be more horrified than I am about this activity taking place on any of the islands in the Trust area, and I could not agree more with Mr. McAllister’s (and many others’) sentiments about the logging. However, his statement that “the Islands Trust takes no responsibility and our Local Trust Committee turns a blind eye” is off-target or perhaps misguided.

At the last two Trust Council meetings (January in Nanaimo and March on Gabriola) I noted that both Laura Patrick and Peter Grove’s comments for the report on their island focused on their grave concern over the logging in the Beddis Road area. They are most definitely not “turning a blind eye” to this travesty, nor are any of their colleagues on council.

The Local Trust Committee cannot just “stop the logging by simply enforcing its own bylaws and declaring that the logging operations are an unauthorized use of the parcel under its present zoning,” as the Allen/McMillan Law Corporation purportedly states. Cutting down trees for agricultural purposes is entirely legal, even if it means a clear-cut on an agriculturally zoned property.

Logging is an activity regulated by the provincial Forest Act. It is not a zoned “use” on any parcel of land, and it is allowed in Rural, Agricultural, Forestry and almost any other zone in the entire Trust Area, unless that parcel is protected by a development permit area with very specific and reasonable restrictions. Even in a development permit area, logging is permitted if it meets the guidelines of the DPA, and of course DPAs are not retroactive. 

Please be assured that I have watched similar horrifying logging activities taking place on my own island of Gabriola, and on other Trust Islands, for the past 38 years, and I could not be more sympathetic to the need for immediate restrictions on clear-cut logging, especially when that is happening on environmentally sensitive terrain. However, those restrictions need to come from the province, with changes to the Forestry Act, or by the granting of better regulatory tools to the Islands Trust.

The Islands Trust has an honourable and necessary mandate to “preserve and protect” our precious islands in the Salish Sea from inappropriate land use and human activities, and those of us who take that mandate seriously feel heartbreak when we see that the means to achieve that mandate are sorely lacking.

The writer is a Gabriola Island resident and a former Islands Trust trustee.

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