Ancient Forest Alliance worries about potential sell-off of unused DND lands for real estate development and calls for federal government to let Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada, the provinces, regional districts, and First Nations protect unused DND lands.
The potential sell-off of Department of National Defence (DND) lands reported by the Ottawa Citizen and the Canadian media recently is causing concern for conservationists who fear some of Canada’s most endangered ecosystems could be jeopardized by real estate development.
Instead the Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the federal government to protect the endangered ecosystems and exceptional natural areas on unused DND lands through:
- the Canadian Wildlife Service as new National Wildlife Areas
- Parks Canada as new National Parks
- transferring unused DND lands to the provinces for new Provincial Parks, Provincial Conservancies (in BC), or Ecological Reserves
- to Regional Districts in BC as new Regional Parks
- to First Nations as treaty settlement lands under agreement to become new First Nations protected areas where subsistence, cultural, and spiritual uses will continue
The Department of National Defence controls 800 parcels of federal public lands totalling 2.25 million hectares (about two-thirds the size of Vancouver Island) in Canada for military use, although vast areas are unused and remain in excellent ecological condition. From endangered coastal old-growth forests to prairie grasslands to Carolinian deciduous forests in southern Ontario to large intact boreal forests, Canada’s least disturbed ecosystems are often in the unused portions of the DND’s lands.
“It might be surprising to most Canadians, but in many cases the ecosystems in the best ecological condition in Canada are on DND lands. Much DND land is unused, and in other areas the occasional bullets and bombs still often have lower impacts than the large-scale industrial resource extraction, clearcutting, strip-mining, oil drilling, agriculture, and suburban sprawl that impact other lands in Canada,” stated Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “We’re demanding that the federal government show environmental leadership by protecting the endangered ecosystems and key natural areas on DND lands through new National and Provincial Parks, National Wildlife Areas, and Ecological Reserves rather than selling them off for suburban sprawl.”
In the Capital Regional District around Victoria, the DND controls over 4000 hectares of public lands, which include the very finest old-growth Coastal Douglas Fir forests and Garry oak ecosystems left in Canada in places like Rocky Point and Mary Hill in Metchosin, and DND lands behind the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre, adjacent to Fort Rodd National Historic Park, and at Royal Roads University (which leases their lands from the DND) in Colwood.
“40% of the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem is now underneath the pavement of Victoria, Nanaimo, and Duncan, or converted to agriculture, and 99% of its old-growth forests are already logged. The finest remnants of the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem are here on the DND lands,” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer. “It’s the Department of National Defence’s duty to protect our Country when it’s under threat and here is the perfect opportunity to protect one of the most threatened places in Canada on their very own lands."