Friday, March 18, 2005


Countless times, over the course of the past year that I have been writing this column, people have thanked me for bringing up issues about the environment and the destructive forces that threaten to destroy the planet. Complete strangers encourage me to continue writing this column because they enjoy learning about subjects that rarely see the light of day. I humbly thank those people for letting me know that they care.

Provincial government ministers, MLAs, city councilors, and civil servants have provided input regarding my column by contacting the editor of the PQ News. At times they question details and provide their point of view, but they do not provide the public with the opportunity to become more informed or to participate in solutions to the problems that I have identified.

A case in point is the Lost Trails Wetlands in Dashwood where the sale of 300 acres of land owned by the public will close next week with little to no public consultation by Land and Water British Columbia. Announcements, made when decisions have already been made do not allow for issues to be discussed in a fair and meaningful manner. For information regarding similar deals around the province check out:

I have noticed a trend with regards to the environment since the BC Liberals came to power. Several sensitive areas of ecological significance, that have been identified and earmarked for protection by biologists and other professionals, were allowed to be partially destroyed before any protection was implemented. In the local area I know of at least one marsh, an old growth forest, and the riparian zone along a river that have all suffered this fate.

A very disturbing concept was expressed to me by a government employee whom I cannot name because he or she might be fired. In order to protect a piece of land as park, wildlife corridor, or ecological reserve a price must be negotiated. To meet budgetary constraints, imposed by the BC Liberals, the private corporations that own the land offer to reduce the market value. This generally means that valuable assets will be removed from the equation.

The result is that sensitive ecosystems are logged and the majority of significant trees are removed by the company before the government pays market value for the land and names it a park. Since the land is private, the logs are exported. The government then makes an announcement to the public that they have saved and protected a piece of nature for people to enjoy, calling it a corporate gift. Millions of tax payer dollars are spent on lands where the natural wildlife habitat has already been significantly compromised.

Such is the case with the recent park expansion in Cathedral Grove where BC taxpayers put out $2 million in cash and $3 million worth of tax credits to American logging giant Weyerhaeuser to buy 140 hectares of land that has been logged extensively. WLAP Minister Bill Barisoff called this a Eco-gift. E-mail

Meanwhile the only remaining stands of old growth Douglas Fir trees outside the park remain in the hands of Weyerhaeuser, who will either log or sell the land to Brascan.

At the same time the BC government is selling lands that the public believed to be protected as parks, while buying land that has been logged to make up for the short-fall in parks. The public outcry after the fact can not repair the damage, therefore people must stand up for their concerns before it is too late.

The first statement at is; “Land and Water British Columbia Inc. manages the allocation of Crown land and water resources on behalf of the Government of British Columbia and its constituents.”

People walk on the land and drink the water. It has been my experience that the public is concerned about the future of the planet. Many people understand that the quality of life enjoyed by humanity is very much connected with the well-being of the natural world around us. Corporations are not human beings, but they can be stopped. Land and Water British Columbia may be a corporation but the people of this province own it.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Last week I had the honour of accompanying the grade four/five class of French Creek Elementary School in their exploration of Hamilton Marsh. My last article had sparked a discussion that led to a field trip and I was asked to join them to provide some commentary. The energy and curiosity of more than thirty children wandering through the wetland forest reminded me of my own school field trip along that same trail some twenty-five years ago. I wondered how many classes have explored this unique ecosystem over the years. How many of you remember those tours?

I was inspired by the thrill, joy, and enthusiasm shown by the school children as they hunted for cones from different species of trees, caught then released frogs, and gazed into the water looking for salamanders. Those children reminded me of the inquisitive nature of humanity that many adults have replaced with greed.

Ecologically significant properties around the province have been set aside by regional districts at the request of the local voting public. However, because all crown land is governed by the provincial government (subject to First Nations Treaties which still have not been negotiated or signed), those properties have been leased to local municipalities.

When the BC Liberals took power in 2001 they ordered Land and Water British Columbia to more than double the annual rate of sale by selling-off $77 million of public (Crown) lands each year to private real estate developers. Leases, held by regional districts around the province, were not renewed when their leases expired. This despite the provincial target that 12% of the landbase be set aside for parklands. On the mainland 95% of the land base is publicly owned and managed by the crown. On the east coast of Vancouver island, due to the Dunsmuir Agreement of 1885, only 5% of the land base is crown land.

LWBC is selling off public land in Oceanside. For many years local residents have been assured by the Regional District of Naniamo that Little Mountain, Morrison Creek, and land in Dashwood known as the ‘Lost Trails Wetlands’ have been protected as parks. Recently the leases on all three properties expired and were not renewed by LWBC. That is until local residents began to learn the facts.

In July 2004 Chris Walther, RPF and local resident Ed Jewer submitted a report providing a detailed analysis of the biogeoclimatic variants and aquatic habitats in the Lost Trails Wetlands. As a result LWBC was persuaded to renew a 10 year lease for a small municipal park with the RDN and has committed in principal 3 other parcels. Mr. Jewer is encouraged by this although he would like to see long term protection for these parcels and is still very concerned that there are more sensitive areas that need to be protected. " Of the 11 wetlands identified by LWBC report, only 3 wetlands have full protection, 2 others have partial." In a water assessment document provided to Mr. Jewer by LWBC it is stated that "The water absorption provided by this land likely plays a role in recharging ground water levels and supply of moderating flows to the Little Qualicum River." LWBC currently has the remaining parcels on the market for sale.

These reports, as well as one submitted by LWBC, were assessed by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. On January 27, 2005 Ecosystems Officer M. E. Henigman wrote; “As previously advised, the study area lies within the Coastal Douglas-fir, moist maritime (CDFmm) and very dry maritime, Coastal Western Hemlock (CWHxml) BEC zones, within which all forest ecosystems are red and blue listed in the province of British Columbia. As conservation mechanisms to preserve these BEC variants on private land are extremely weak, their protection on Crown land is essential if these ecosystems are to be maintained. Development of the study area, in particular logging the mid-to-older age timber classes, can be expected to accelerate the loss of these ecosystems on Vancouver Island.” This statement is quoted directly from a letter to Mark Hallam - Acting Manager, Major Projects - Strategic Initiatives Division Land and Water British Columbia Inc.

Mr. Jewer is continuing to encourage protection on the remaining Crown Parcels. The limited listing date of March 22 doesn't leave much time. For more information please contact Mr. Jewer at (752-1833) or visit WWW.LTWETLANDS.ORG