Editorial: Paralysis by Analysis
Towards Meaningful Protection
Canada's First Grizzly Bear Sanctuary
The Push to buy Jedediah Island
The Marmot Paradox
Managing Erosion of Nimpkish Island ER
Ecological Riches in Victoria's Water Supply
The Good News This Spring
The Mt. Tuam Saga Continues
Mr. Owen's Vancouver Island Plan
Marbled Murrelet Research Team
Somenos Marsh Development
Towards Meaningful Protection
The commitment to double the size of BC’s parks system was a key plank in the NDP election campaign that got it elected to power in 1991. More than three years later, the NDP Government is well on the way to fulfilling that promise.
Ts’yl-os, Kitlope, Khutzeymateen, Tatshenshini, Megin—protected, at last!
Or are they?
“Paper parks”—that’s what Friends director Vicky Husband, who chairs the Sierra Club of Western Canada calls most of BC’s newly protected areas. For some, like the Khutzeymateen, there’s a cabinet order-in-council. For most, there’s only a promise. That includes the 23 protected areas announced in the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan, as well as the Megin and other parts of Clayoquot Sound.
Which means they can be whittled away—or the decisions reversed—at whim. An order-in-council is better than nothing, but it can be amended or rescinded without any public or legislative scrutiny.
What’s needed is legislation that creates new parks. Only a few of BC’s provincial parks—Strathcona, Purcell, Spatsizi—were created by legislation.
That’s just one issue.
Another is maintaining the integrity of our protected areas in the face of relentless development that is turning them into islands. Effective protection may require “:strict enforcement of existing regulations,” in the words of Rolf Kellerhals, warden of the Nimpkish River Ecological Reserve. The serious management problems surrounding that magnificent forested area are detailed in this issue. They should give us pause to reflect on the challenge all protected areas pose.
The list of abuses in and around ecological reserves is long. Mountain biking in Mt. Tzuhalem. Illegal geoduck harvesting in Checleset Bay. Grazing by feral sheep and goats on several Gulf Island reserves. Commercial use of the road through the Mt. Tuam reserve.
Meanwhile, only one reserve—Nimpkish Island—has a management plan, and Mr. Kellerhals questions its prescriptive value.
We wonder whether BC Parks has got this message. Requiring small groups of naturalists to obtain written permits for three-hour field trips to ecological reserves—as at least one district is doing—is a red herring. I suspect we’re an easy mark: “Look, we’re doing something.” We’d rather see government agencies devote their valuable, taxpayer-supported time protecting our ecological reserves against real impacts.
The Mount Tuam Saga Continues
Development pressures continue on all sides of the Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve (#16). This winter, the adjacent 100-acre northeast property was logged and subdivided. Despite a promise to the community for the local realtor, Island Heritage Reality, on behalf of its client, a San Diego development firm, to covenant a 40-acre fragment of old growth—one of the last and largest patches of old growth left on Salt Spring Island, including a tree estimated at 1,000 years old—the timber rights were sold for the whole property before subdividing. Major financing for this project was provided by the local credit union, Island Savings.
On the northwest side, the developers Spencer’s Excavation Ltd, have been lobbying BC Lands to push a road through one of few remaining Crown parcels (southeast Section 43, identified in the Protected Areas Strategy as a candidate area) to provide access to develop Lot 38, which lies along the north edge of the reserve, in exchange for donating land. The Crown Land Use Coalition of local community groups has recommended that this application be opposed and that planning for the entire upland forest area be subject to a comprehensive strategy.
On the southern edge, the Cape Keppel issue continues to flare. The developer was granted a “water access only” subdivision, but is now lobbying the highways ministry to push a road through an adjacent Crown park reserve to get a legal corridor through to his property line. This reserve has been identified in the Protected Areas Strategy as a candidate for designation. Again, community groups have strongly recommended rejection of this application. There is no possible benefit to opening the reserve to traffic.
In all three cases, the mechanisms for protecting buffer zones are in place, but developers are pushing agencies and the community to the limit to maximize their returns on land investments. The pressure is incessant, and rising land prices have made this a high-stake game.
This New Year, a group of us staggered through the mud and debris of what once had been a rich ancient forest floor and came upon the stump of a tree grown tall before Captain Vancouver ever ventured near these shores. On the stump one of the fallers had carved a huge dollar sign with his chainsaw. It was five feet from the boundary of the ecological reserve.
I am not sure how we can solve this problem. Talk in the community has ranged from starting new financial institutions that have local ethical accounts that relate directly to local land use issues to setting up a stewardship service that provides local information to developers, realtors, and landowners. The talk continues—and the forests continue to disappear.