Friday, November 16, 2007


I just walked through the ‘not-a-clear-cut’ logged area between Qualicum Beach and Coombs. The second growth forest, once considered a buffer from previous logging, has just been leveled. ‘Single stem variable retention logging’ at its finest. Like sentinels left standing on a bleak and desolate landscape, a few deformed trees remain. A jumble of stumps, exposed root-balls, shattered trunks, branches, and exposed ground cover are all that remain.

Water from Hamilton Marsh flows directly into this wasteland on its way into French Creek. Heavy rains are flushing the silt, mud, and debris exposed by this logging operation into the tributaries of French Creek. Down stream are salmon enhancement projects, community water intakes, housing for thousands, and banks subject to erosion and collapse when run-off swells the creek.

This area is owned by Island Timberlands, which is owned by Brascan, which has changed its name to Brookfield. This “Global Asset Management Company” has just come out of a long strike with local forestry workers. Having logged this area they will be selling the land to a real-estate firm. In order for the unnamed developers to sub-divide and sell this land for residential and commercial uses they will have to apply to the Regional District of Nanaimo for rezoning permits to take this land out of its forest management designation. This will likely be approved unless the public takes a stand.

According to the Official Community Plan, established by the RDN and dedicated members of this community, this land is specifically reserved for forest management. The logged area closest to the Inland Highway is part of the RDN Area “G” while the clear-cut along what was once the ‘Coombs cut-off’ is in Area “F.” Rezoning would have to be approved by the RDN Board of Directors, which includes both local mayors.

The forest around Hamilton Marsh is also owned by Island Timberlands, which recently rejected a fair market value offer from the Regional District of Nanaimo in partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada to purchase the land and protect it as park. Based on the direction Brookfield is taking, all forestland in the area will be logged and sold to real estate developers.

The provincial governments - the NDP initiated this legislation and the BC Liberals boast they have completed the task - claim they have protected 12% of the land base as parks. However, the majority of people living on Vancouver Island are concentrated along a thin corridor along the east coast from Campbell River south. In that area less than 7% of the land has been protected as parks. The primary reason is because industry and private people own most of the land.

All of the land between Victoria and Courtney along the East Coast of Vancouver Island, along with all land West to a line that runs between Port Renfrew and Port Alberni, is privately owned. In 1884 Prime Minister John A. Macdonald convinced coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir to build the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, something he had promised the citizens of British Columbia in order for them to join confederation in 1871. The government in Ottawa paid Dunsmuir $750,000 cash and 2.1 million acres of land on Vancouver Island along with all mineral rights.

Over the years the E&N lands were sold to small and large companies as well as to private individuals. As a result this entire Dunsmuir land area is not accessible to the general public and remains out of the jurisdiction of all levels of government. Most streams, lakes and swamps on the east side the island are held privately, including the bed of the water body.

One way out of this land squeeze is to limit re-zoning of land to that of the OCP. As it stands, the land Island Timberlands has logged is not zoned for housing or commercial development. Should they decide to ‘donate’ the entire forest around Hamilton Marsh to the RDN as a park, then their development firms may have a chance for re-zoning. Until then the limitation of forestland remains in place.

Contact Electoral Area “F” Director Lou Biggemann and Area “G” Director Joe Stanhope at Regional District of Nanaimo 6300 Hammond Bay Road Nanaimo, BC V9T 6N2 as well as Community Planning 954-3798 E-mail: