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Environmentalists Call for a BC Park Acquisition Fund and for Island Timberlands to Back Off until Contentious Lands can be Purchased for Protection

A provincial fund is needed similar to those of regional districts for acquiring private lands for new parks.

Ancient Forest Alliance, March 1, 2012

Environmentalists Call for a BC Park Acquisition Fund and for Island Timberlands to Back Off until Contentious Lands can be Purchased for Protection
Click for larger image

Cathedral Canyon
Photo by TJ Watt

Conservationists are standing in solidarity today calling on coastal logging giant Island Timberlands to back off from their plans to log forests with high recreational and environmental values, including old-growth forests and sensitive ecosystems, while calling on the BC government to help purchase the company’s contentious private lands.

At McLaughlin Ridge near Port Alberni, on Cortes Island near Campbell River, at Stillwater Bluffs by Powell River, at Cathedral Grove Canyon adjacent to McMillan Provincial Park, and at the Cameron Valley Firebreak near Port Alberni, Island Timberlands’ corporate private lands include some of the most contentious forests of high conservation value in British Columbia – old-growth forests, sensitive ecosystems, and mature second-growth forests of high recreational value.

Conservationists are calling on the provincial government to establish a BC Park Acquisition Fund of at least $40 million per year, raising $400 million over 10 years, to purchase old-growth forests and other endangered ecosystems on private lands across the province. The fund would be similar to the park acquisition funds of various regional districts in BC which are augmented by the fundraising efforts of private citizens and land trusts.

“Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government must step forward with a funding solution, a BC Park Acquisition Fund similar to those of many regional districts, to purchase old-growth forests, sensitive ecosystems, and other important areas on private lands for protection - particularly Island Timberlands’ contentious lands,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder. “At the same time, Island Timberlands needs put the brakes on their plans to log the last old-growth stands and contentious areas until those lands can be purchased for protection.”

“There has been an incredible amount of public pressure about the situation on Cortes, which I think is a major factor in Island Timberlands' recent decision to postpone their logging plans for 6months," says forest activist Zoe Miles, who grew up on Cortes Island. "It's a temporary victory, but it does give us more time to raise funds for land purchase. If Island Timberlands is genuinely willing to consider land sale at fair market value, then it's the responsibility of our provincial government to listen to its electorate and help make that happen."

“Stillwater Bluffs has been identified as a priority parcel for protection as a regional park by the Powell River Regional District. It contains sensitive ecosystems and veteran old-growth trees and is a popular area used by local people for recreation,” said Jason Addy of the Friends of Stillwater Bluffs. “It is a no-brainer for a new park and Island Timberlands needs to stay away until the lands can be purchased at fair market value.”

Many regional districts in BC, such as the Capital, Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley, Strathcona, and Powell River Regional Districts have park acquisition funds to protect lands of high ecological and recreational value. The Capital Regional District’s (CRD) Land Acquisition Fund has spent over $34million dollars to purchase over 4500 hectares of land around Victoria since its establishment in the year 2000.

See http://www.crd.bc.ca/parks/preservation/newparks.htm and http://www.crd.bc.ca/media/2010/2010-01-13-land-acq-fund.htm . The CRD fund is raised through an average $14-per-household levy (increasing to $20-per-household by 2015) each year, raising roughly $3 million per year between 2010 to 2019, and has been pivotal for protecting lands of high environmental and/or recreational value at Jordan River, the Sooke Hills, the Sooke Potholes, lands adjacent to Thetis Lake Park, and at Burgoyne Bay on Salt Spring Island.

Island Timberlands (IT) is the second largest private landowner in BC, owning 258,000 hectares of private lands (http://www.islandtimberlands.com/our-company/our-present.htm)mainly on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Haida Gwaii.

Some of the most contentious sites on Island Timberlands’ private lands include:

Cortes Island – IT owns about 1000 hectares of land on this northern Gulf Island, including the Children’s Forests, Whaletown Commons,and extremely rare old-growth “dry maritime” forests at Basil Creek and the Green Valley. As a result of community pressure, the company has temporarily backed off from plans to log on the Island until September, while the community submits ecological inventory information and proposals to the company. For more info contact Zoe Miles at wildstands.press@gmail.com  See the spectacular photo gallery at: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=12

Stillwater Bluffs – IT owns a 48 hectare dry maritime forest by Powell River which contains a rugged stretch of dramatic coastline. It is accessible to the public and offers rock bluffs, hiking trails, and unspoiled wildlife habitat that is perfect for a nature park. It is heavily used by local people and could be the local residents’ version of West Vancouver’s famous Lighthouse Park. The parcel, known as DL 3040, includes sensitive ecosystems of arbutus/rocky outcrops, second-growth Douglas fir and cedar of high community recreation and scenic value, and scattered old-growth “veteran” trees. The Powell River Regional District has expressed an interest in protecting the Stillwater Bluffs as a park. Local citizens say that Island Timberlands has committed to not log the Stillwater Bluffs within the next 6 months, but plan log it within 2 years. Formore info contact Jason Addy at jasonaddy@hotmail.com

McLaughlin Ridge – IT owns about 500 hectares (about 100 hectares of which they’ve logged in recent years) of critical old-growth wintering habitat for black-tailed deer and nesting and foraging habitat of the endangered Queen Charlotte Goshawk in this section of the China Creek water shed near Port Alberni. This area was previously planned to become a Wildlife Habitat Area and Old-Growth Management Area until the BC Liberal government removed Weyerhaeuser’s (now Island Timberlands) private forest lands on Vancouver Island from their Tree Farm License in 2004. So far IT is still planning to move ahead and log this area in the near future. For more info contact Jane Morden at janemorden@gmail.com See the spectacular photo gallery of photos by the AFA’s TJ Watt at: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=10

Cathedral Grove Canyon and the Cameron Valley Firebreak – IT owns old-growth and second-growth forests adjacent to the famed Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park near Port Alberni, including the spectacular Cathedral Grove Canyon along the Cameron River where giant old-growth Douglas firs and red cedars stand. A public outcry about the marking of these old-growth trees for potential logging seems to have put a hold on the company’s logging plans. Further up the Cameron Valley is the “Cameron Valley Firebreak”, one of the last major tracts of old-growth forest left in the valley that local communities recently learned is also being targeted for logging by IT. For more info contact Annette Tanner at wcwcqb@shaw.ca See an incredible photo gallery of Cathedral Grove Canyon at:

http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=14

The Ancient Forest Alliance is also calling on the BC government to implement a Provincial Old-Growth Strategy to protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests, to ensure sustainable second-growth forestry, and to ban raw log exports to foreign mills.
 


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