Thursday, February 14, 2008


Wednesday February 13 morning, before first light 70 police officers arrested 7 people dedicated to protecting the Langford Cave and Garry Oak ecosystem near Goldstream park. Swat teams stormed over the forest arresting 2 tree-sitters and 5 others at gunpoint (many shotguns, hands guns, and rifles) A great deal of force was used, although no charges were laid and it appeared difficult to find a judge who would go along with this police action.

Last week I was giving a tour of the area to a TV crew from France when 2 RCMP officers approached me for my name. I reminded them of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that entitles every citizen in Canada to privacy, association, and freedom of the press.

I began to talk with one officer about the Gary Oak Ecosystem that was going to be destroyed by the planned highway interchange. He didn’t think it was a problem and then related his own personal story. He wanted to build a second garage beside his home and found the local bylaws prevented him from simply cutting down 2 massive Garry Oak trees in his backyard. He was forced to hire an accredited arborist who wrote a letter stating the trees had to go before the garage could be built. Then he had to acquire a permit to remove the trees which was only issued after he provided a receipt for 2 replacement Garry Oak trees over 6 feet tall. He was obviously upset that he couldn’t simply destroy the ecosystem that was in his way but the result was the same. No more ancient Garry Oaks in his backyard, just young seedlings.

Garry Oak Ecosystems are endangered according to the BC Ministry of Environment, who state: “Restricted to southwestern British Columbia, these ecosystems are among the rarest in the province.” They contain a diverse array of animal and plant life, including Northern Alligator Lizards, Easter Lilies, Camas, and Shooting Stars. This unique grouping of species only occurs within the Coastal Douglas-fir Zone on south eastern Vancouver Island and some of the gulf islands. Over 97% of the Garry Oak ecosystems have been destroyed by development.

Oceanside’s Nanoose notch is a rare example of an intact hillside, however a walk along those bluffs will reveal development on all sides where the rocky outcroppings are being bulldozed. Hopefully Fairwinds and the Department of National Defense will be encouraged to protect this rare ecosystem.

First Nations named the mountain SPAET, long before wealthy athletes dubbed it Bear Mountain, and it played a significant part in their culture. Garry Oak flourished on this mountain providing important medicine and food plants such as camas. Several sacred caves are concealed below SPAET; tiny entrances open up into massive chambers hidden below the surface. Vancouver Island has many hidden caves, due to a phenomenon known as Karst, whereby rainwater seeps though the hard rocky topography wearing away the softer limestone.

When First Nations tried to protect one of these caves they met with strong residence by Bear Mountain developers who filled it in with tires, debris, and rock before collapsing it with dynamite. Police and government downplayed the situation and the courts approved an injunction to prevent key First Nations from visiting Bear Mountain property.

Between 1998 and 2001 the BC Land Reserve Commission rejected several attempts by Western Forest Products to transfer crown land from the tree farm license on Skirt Mountain to private ownership.

The BC Liberal party came to power May 2001; 2 months later BC granted 44 hectares of Crown land on Skirt Mountain to Western Forest Products for $1.05 million. This land is adjacent to Goldstream Provincial Park. 6 months later the Land Reserve Commission allowed several hundred hectares to be taken out of the Forest Land Reserve, which WFP sold for $7.5 million to private developers. A few months later the District of Langford re-zones this property allowing large-scale development.

Between 2002 and the present, the Bear Mountain Parkway was built through the former Forest Land Reserve lands. An 18-hole golf course was built on the former Crown lands and WFP lands, along with a village-centre of shops, condominiums, an hockey arena, and a high-rise Westin hotel. Several hundred luxury homes were built on terra-formed platforms, formed by blasting the mountain in long troughs and then leveling the rubble into flat pads, where Garry Oak and Arbutus meadows once stood.


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