Yellow Point Ecological Society
President’s Report, 2017-18
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” ― Rachel Carson
Our Purpose is to work to understand, appreciate, protect and restore the ecosystems and watersheds in the Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island and to inspire and support local residents and visitors to do the same.
Members and Supporters
The Yellow Point Ecological Society (Y.E.S.) formally became a society in August 2017, and we have since acquired 45 members and 215 supporters on our email list (including members).
Business as Usual
During the past year we have held 35 Board meetings, established our website and email list-service, and become formally established with a constitution. We have had three stories in Take 5 Magazine, created our brochure, business cards, posters and banner, kept our website and Facebook page up-to-date with fresh stories, and issued several newsletters to our members and supporters.
We have become organizational members of the Coastal Douglas Fir Conservation Partnership, and the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition.
Monthly Meetings and Hikes
We have held eight community meetings, including our Christmas Social and Ecological Quiz, our Forests and Watersheds Solutions Forum at Cedar Community Hall, and these presentations by our guests:
- Geraldine Manson, esteemed elder with the Snuneymuxw First Nation
- Erik Piikkila, forest ecologist
- Bruce Whittington, ornithologist
- Genevieve-Singleton, naturalist
- Ted Leischner, bee-keeper
- Janet Lochead, marine biologist
Erik Piikkila has been a guest talking about ecoforestry on Shaw TV’s show Change the World, hosted by Guy Dauncey.
We have organized six outings to the Yellow Point Ecological Reserve, Wildwood Ecoforest, Hemer Park, the Yellow Point Park for a Poetry in the Forest Walk, Yellow Point Lodge, and Kayaking on Quennell Lake.
We participated twice with our tent at the Cedar Farmers Market, and at the World Water Day event in Bowen Park, Nanaimo.
The Yellow Point Roadside Trash Challenge
Eighteen local people stepped forward in response to our Roadside Trash Challenge, and most of the roads on the eastern side of Yellow Point are now being kept clean of garbage in an easy-self-organized manner. We are proud of our volunteers, and we thank them all!
Volunteers put in many hours clearing the broom from the meadow at Yellow Point Park, enabling the camas and other wildflowers to return, and along Yellow Point Road close to the Lodge, being rewarded with a lovely lunch at the Lodge, down by the ocean.
In response to our efforts, the CVRD has installed a split rail fence at the Yellow Point Park entrance to keep people from walking on the meadow and direct them to the designated pathway. They will decommission the unauthorized trail on the east side and address the erosion that is causing water to drain onto Yellow Point Road. Next year, they are budgeting for some invasive removal, reseeding with native meadow plants and updating the signage.
At the request of a local resident, we are attempting to engage with the Regional District of Nanaimo to further the protection and stewardship of Holden Creek, off Holden-Corso Road, and to pursue implementation of the fourteen recommendations in the Holden Creek Stream Survey that was undertaken for the RDN in 2016.
SFN Sports and Recreation Fundraiser
As part of our efforts to build a positive relationship with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, and to enable young people from low-income families to participate in sports activities, which is a known defense against suicide, we partnered with the Nanaimo Foundation to organize a fundraiser to which many people contributed, enabling us to meet our goal of $2,500. At the time of writing the money is in the process of transfer from the Nanaimo Foundation to the Snuneymuxw Sports and Recreation Centre.
The Sixty Acres – Efforts and Failure
By far the largest of our efforts during the year has been to try to save Sixty Acres of privately-owned 80-year-old intact forest at the end of Long Lake Road. To this end, we engaged in various initiatives:
- Gathering more almost 3,000 signatures on a petition urging protection of the land.
- Undertaking a survey of the native plants in the forest in partnership with Sharon Hartwell, Nancy Turner and Geraldine Manson, and offering this research to the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
- Doing our own extensive research and meeting with the Regional District of Nanaimo planning staff to learn about the permitting and development process.
- Presenting to the RDN, seeking their support to minimize deforestation of the land while respecting the owner’s right to develop the land.
- Repeatedly trying to meet with the owners to discuss ways to protect the forest and the Yellow Point aquifer while still developing the land.
- Submitting a detailed proposal to the owners suggesting a method of development by clustering homes that could have enabled them to obtain good financial value from the land, while protecting most of the forest.
- Trying unsuccessfully to find enough people to buy the land for the asking price of $2 million.
All these efforts failed, and the forest has now been mostly clearcut, with the exception of the south-west corner, which is scheduled for logging next spring. This is privately owned land, and we honour and respect the rights of the owners to log and develop the land, within the riparian protection and zoning laws and regulations that apply.
In the larger picture, we have some very deep concerns:
- Almost all the forest in Cedar/Yellow Point is privately owned, and the laws of the land support a landowner’s right to clearcut a forest with only minimal legal protection for a riparian area next to a lake, creek or wetland. The rest of the land, legally speaking, is ecologically abandoned.
- Our watershed consists of fractured bedrock sandstone, fed by rainwater alone, and the forest cover plays a critical role in slowing the rate of run-off, allowing groundwater to accumulate.
- Under current regulations, almost all the remaining forest in the area can be clearcut and sold off for development.
- No mechanisms exist to protect the owls, the ravens, the squirrels, the wildflowers, or the trees themselves. Only a listed eagle’s nest merits protection under some circumstances.
- No mechanisms exist for enforcing compliance with the terms and conditions of a development permit issued by the regional district. The enforcement process falls to the RDN’s bylaw officers, who appear not to have the skills to assess whether the conditions of a development permit are being followed, and who have shown no interest in acting on complaints.
- No mechanism exists to ensure that timber harvested from private land is used in local mills; it can all be exported as raw logs.
- No mechanism exists to recognize or protect or even to map an ecosystem listed as “critically imperiled” by BC’s Conservation Data Centre.
Seven Ways to Protect the Forest
In our endeavours to protect the forests that we love, and the watershed that depends on them, we have accumulated seven possible ways to protect some or all of the forest, which we shared at a public forum in Cedar Community Hall, in September.
- The voluntary use of conservation and ecoforestry covenants, protecting the forest for future generations while allowing logging using the ecosystem-based single-tree selection methods practiced at Wildwood by the Ecoforestry Institute Society, enabling the forest to recover its old growth character over the next 100 years.
- The use of a property tax incentive to reward landowners who are already practising sustainable forest management, or who have placed a conservation covenant on their land.
- The development of a regional conservation fund, financed by a small increase in taxes to fund conservation projects on private lands, and to purchase private properties for conservation purposes. The CVRD has such a fund; the RDN does not.
- The enactment of a local government zoning bylaw requiring clustered or carefully-place home-site development on lots of ten acres or more. Thus, a landowner who owns twenty acres, allowing four 5-acre lots, could develop four homes on four small lots, the rest of the forest being shared by the owners and protected by a conservation covenant including ecoforestry clauses.
- The use of a density transfer, allowing a landowner whose zoning allows for subdivision into two or more lots to sell the development potential to a landowner in an area where density transfer units can be received for an approved development. For example, if you own 20 acres zoned to allow four 5-acre lots, you could sell some or all of the density units, the remaining forest being protected by covenant. This is currently allowed in the RDN, with density transfers to RDN Area H.
- Amending the provincial development permit area (DPA) rules:
- classifying all Coastal Douglas fir forest as an endangered ecosystem, enabling environmentally sensitive DPAs to be established by local governments;
- requiring a permit for any subdivision, not just for four lots or more; and
- strengthening the rules to require the clustering or careful placement of development, with the remaining forest being protected by covenant.
- The creation by the provincial government of a Coastal Douglas Fir Land Reserve, in which
- logging would be allowed provided it followed ecoforestry principles,
- landowners’ development rights would remain, but be adjusted to require that any proposed development is clustered or carefully placed, and
- requiring that the remaining forest be protected by covenant.
We are exploring of these options, and considering which merits attention in the year ahead.
The Local Elections
For the October local elections we prepared a questionnaire about our concerns which we offered to both candidates in the RDN and all three candidates in the CVRD. All five of the candidates responded, and we posted their responses to our website, which were viewed 449 times in the days before the election. We congratulate Mary Marcotte on her re-election as our Regional Director in the CVRD, and Keith Wilson as our Director in the RDN.
The 21 Acres
A parcel of 21 acres of forested land at the end of Roper Road is now on the market for $800,000. In our concern to prevent the forest from being clearcut and put back on the market, we met with the owners (who would much prefer to sell to someone who will protect the forest), consulted with the realtor and the RDN Planning Department, and posted a story on our website outlining the possibility that four people could work together to buy the land to convert into four 5-acre lots, or that up to eight people could buy the land together to rezone it for a building-strata with up to eight homes. The story attracted more than 2,000 views in just three days, and eight people have expressed an interest in cooperating to buy the land; we are now working to bring them together.
This work has been done by a very small team of volunteers for the shared benefit of all who live in the Yellow Point Cedar community, for the forest, farms and ocean, and for the many species with whom we share our lives in this beautiful area. We welcome more volunteers to help us in this work. And we thank our hard-working Board members!
November 3rd, 2018.