June 28, 2014
On June 24th, after a threat of legal action from the Gambier Conservancy and a private land owner, a senior official from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) conceded that more consultation was required before moving ahead with awarding the highly controversial NE Gambier Island Crown land woodlots, and he paused the process for “a few weeks.” This has very briefly relieved the pressure on the concerned stakeholders of Gambier Island, but the underlying issue still exists–FLNRO needs to work with all the stakeholders, not just forestry interests.
The Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources has received many letters from the public challenging the Province’s decision to surrender 3,275 acres of Gambier Island to logging. In the Province’s own Woodlot license Program Guidelines there are seven conditions for awarding Woodlots, the first of these is “Forestry management as best land use” . So how was this determined for Gambier Island in Howe Sound?
In 2001, the Official Community Plan (OCP) for Gambier Island was adopted. An OCP is a guiding document, adopted by bylaw, created by local government staff with input from Community members. An Official Community plan sets out a community’s objectives for the land within its jurisdiction, including Crown Lands, shorelines and uses over water a distance from shore. Local governments have a stewardship and management function for their communities. OCP’s then need to be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure they remain aligned with changing community objectives.
In 2001, Local Gambier Advisory Committee determined that the Crown Lands (which are now the subject of controversy) should be designated a Wilderness Conservation Zone with limited allowable uses and specifically not forestry. However OCP’s do require the consent of the Province and at that time the Province mandated that forestry had to be an allowable use for these areas. The Islands Trust reluctantly gave in to this mandate and considered Woodlots as the least invasive.
As the stewards of these lands, the Province should be routinely reviewing its planning decisions to ensure they remain current and its use is in the best interest of the people. Substantial development and usage changes have occurred on Gambier Island since forestry usage was mandated into the OCP. However, despite current concerns raised by local property owners and recreational users the Province does not appear to be interested in stopping to review their plans..
Auctioning off 3,275 acres on Gambier Island for logging with absolutely minimal net economic benefit to the Province is simply not the “best land use” for this natural area in the middle of the highly publicized and easily accessible Sea To Sky Corridor in close proximity to Metro Vancouver. Before moving ahead with these outdated forestry plans the area’s best overall current and future usage needs to be reconsidered.
People may view our concerns as a message of anti-logging but this is simply not the case. Times have changed and so has Gambier Island in Howe Sound. The Province has many plans for Howe Sound with associated cumulative effects that have not gone through the rigors of a proper planning process with stakeholders. Now is the time for the Province to undertake comprehensive planning for Howe Sound to ensure its plans for Crown land use are aligned with the values and objectives of Howe Sound communities.