Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Back in January I wrote an article entitled “LAND GRABS AFFECT US ALL”, about the privatization of BC crown forestland. Last week the Auditor General of BC released his report, slamming the Ministry of Forests’ handling of publicly owned land, which was given to Western Forest Products (WFP) for private development.

Here is a quote directly from the report by John Doyle, Auditor General: “Overall, the report concludes that the removal of private land from TFLs 6, 19 and 25 was approved without sufficient regard for the public interest. The report notes that: the decision was not adequately informed — it was based upon incomplete information that focused primarily on forest and range matters and the interests of the licensee, with too little consideration given to the potential impacts on other key stakeholders; consultation was not effective and communication with key stakeholders and the public about the decision was not transparent; and the impacts of previous land removal decisions were not monitored to help inform future decisions.”

Much media attention has been given to the land around Jordan River, just west of Sooke, where 28,273 hectares of land was taken out of the publicly owned tree farm by the Ministry of Forests and given to WFP without any financial compensation. However that only accounts for lands privatized within TFL25 while lands privatized in the other TFLs have gone mostly unnoticed. TFL19 is much larger and is located around Gold River, Tahsis, and Zeballas while TFL6 lands are located around Port McNeil, Port Alice, Coal Harbour, and Winter Harbour. The market value of ocean side property in these areas will equal massive profits for WFP and will alter the landscape forever.

The intention of the Tree Farm License system was to legally bind the timber to the land so that logging companies would be obliged to provide work in those areas for generations to come. The spiraling downturn in the forestry industry is as a direct result of these obligations being altered by the current BC government. Raw log exports, mill closures, and privatization of land are allowing logging companies to profit without putting back into local communities for the future.

At the heart of this controversy is the fact that Minister Rich Colman’s older brother, Stan Coleman, works for Western Forest Products where he is their Manager of Strategic Planning. Public outcry has been growing since this story first surfaced. As a result, Premier Campbell shuffled Rich Coleman from his cabinet position as the Minister of Forests, Range, and Housing to the Ministry of Housing and Social Development on June 23, 2008.

Pat Bell was appointed as the new Minister of Forests and Range from his last posting as Minister of Agriculture and Lands and Minister of State for Mining. A government website states; “Prior to becoming an MLA, Mr. Bell owned a trucking company and co-owned a logging company.” Bell has been defending the actions of his predecessor since his appointment.

None of this scandal should come as a surprise to the voting public, after all the BC Liberal party came to power in 2001 with millions of dollars in financial contributions from the largest logging companies in BC. These companies are mostly owned by multinational investor groups. Waterfront property is already at a premium on the international real estate market and the Winter Olympics will shine a light on BC real estate. Placing publicly owned land in the hands of private investors will mean the average BC citizens will be left out of the deal.

According to the government’s website Gordon Campbell was a developer before becoming the mayor of Vancouver. The same site states: “Before his election to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Coleman ran a real estate management and consulting company.” The privatization of public resources in BC has become the hallmark of the Gordon Campbell Liberal government: BC Rail, BC Ferries, BC Hydro, BC Forest lands, and now they are working on BC water.

What is needed now is a judicial review to follow the auditor general's report. This would mean that the BC Supreme Court would investigate allegations of any wrong doings and the consequences could merit legal actions. Otherwise the Campbell government will continue to shuffle cabinet and flood the media with spin in the hope of sliding yet another issue under the carpet so that they will be elected again Tuesday May 12, 2009.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Strathcona Park was established in 1911 as the first provincial park in British Columbia; to this day it is the flagship for the entire park system. What happens in Strathcona usually sets precedent for parks throughout the province.

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) has requested that BC Parks amend the Master Plan for Strathcona Park to allow horses into the protected lands. CWR would like to build a horse trail 14km into Strathcona Park through the pristine Bedwell Valley to You Creek. There they plan to build tent platforms, corrals, and toilets for their exclusive clients. This camp will be located to provide easy access to Cream Lake and Bedwell Lake. The trail would start at their main resort on Bedwell River at the head of Bedwell Inlet, which is in the heart of Clayoquot Sound.

The general public will not benefit from this deal, since the resort is only accessible at great costs and the price for a stay there is very expensive. 3 Nights=$4,750 or
7 Nights=$9,450. The cost of barging horses from Tofino to the mouth of the Bedwell River, where CWR is located, is $3000 and rising with fuel prices. Last fall a group of hikers from Friends of Strathcona Park paid $500 for a water taxi so that they could hike into the Bedwell Valley. As a result of these costs the proposed horse trail would be for the exclusive use of CWR guests.

BC Parks creates Master Plans for all provincial parks after consultation with the general public as well as groups that represent park users. The policies established in these plans are then upheld by government staff and reviewed publicly every few years. Today the policy from the Master Plan for Strathcona Park clearly states that no horses are allowed in the Bedwell Valley.

One of the main reasons for not allowing horses onto parklands is that they eat hay, which often contains seeds from invasive species resulting in the spread of noxious and exotic plants. Horses can spread the seeds from foreign grasses, thistles, genetically modified canola, alfalfa, clovers, and other non-native plants which then grow into seeding plants. In this way an entire ecosystem can be destroyed because rare native plants can no longer compete with newly introduced species, which spread like wildfire.

The digestive system of a horse can be very slow, allowing seeds to remain inside the stomach for as long as a two weeks. An online report from National Parks in the Austrian Alps states; “Studies have shown horses can retain weed seeds in their gut for up to 14 days and these can then germinate in manure in national parks.” CWR claims they will use sterilized food for the horses, however this is next to impossible to monitor. There are also very few suppliers of sterilized hay and what little is available is extremely expensive.

Other concerns include: soil erosion from steel-shoed horses, trampling and grazing impacts on a delicate ecosystem, and damage to the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes.

The Bedwell Valley is a wilderness that provides habitat year around for Bear, Roosevelt Elk, Cougar, Wolf, and many smaller mammals. It is a safe haven for animals that are hunted everywhere else. Interaction between horses with people and these wild animals is inevitable with a trail that will be frequented by SWR guests. The standard response by BC Fish and Wildlife, when wild animals ‘threaten’ people, is to shoot the animal.

Situated in the heart of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range, Strathcona park was established in part to protect significant and environmentally sensitive areas such as alpine meadows, moss beds, alpine wetlands, snow grass and sub-alpine forest communities. The occasional group of hikers who makes it all the way to the Bedwell Valley will cause very little damage to the environment. Regular groups of multiple horse riders will significantly impact this sensitive ecology. Allowing horses into Strathcona Park may establish a precedent for all parks in BC.

Please let BC Minister of Environment Barry Penner know about your concerns. Phone:
250 387-1187

 PO Box 9047
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2