The Forest Covenant

covenant

It sounds like a movie – perhaps a sequel to Lord of the Rings.

Remember the characters? The Hobbits, who are simple and worldly, live in Middle Earth. The Elves, who are kind-hearted, strong and wise, live on an altogether higher plane of existence. The Orcs are brutal monsters. The Dwarves are obsessed with gold. The Ents are the trees themselves, willing to battle to protect justice, goodness and nature. So let’s start.

The Hobbits’ beloved forest in Middle Yellow Point is threatened by an army of Orcs armed with horrible tree-destroying machines. The Elves show the Hobbits how they can protect the forest by using The Forest Covenant, but the Hobbits must first overcome the Dwarves, who have transferred their love of gold to a new love of legalese, with its deep impenetrable prose. As Guardians of the Obscure it is their task to ensure that the Hobbits dot every eye and cross every tee before they are permitted use of the Covenants that can save their forest. Meanwhile, the Orcs move closer every day. Can the ancient tree-people, the Ents, help the Hobbits as they struggle to reach agreement among themselves and win the Dwarves’ support before the Orcs arrive?

We Seek Advice from a Fellow Hobbit

To aid them in their quest the Hobbits sought the advice of Keith Erickson, a fellow Hobbit from the Galiano Conservancy Association who has lived among the Dwarves and knows their ways. Gathered around a cozy woodstove one winter morning in November, he told us about the eyes and the tees.

A Conservation Covenant, he explained, is a legal document stemming from Section 219 of BC’s Land Titles Act that specifies which parcel of land is to be protected, and by what means. The Covenant is registered on title, and it runs with the land in perpetuity – for a thousand years or more.

The land in question must be surveyed. A Covenant can restrict the types of activities that can occur on the land, including whether it can be subdivided or developed. If you want you can prohibit the use of pesticides, alterations to the hydrology or the removal of vegetation. You can allow activities that achieve ecological restoration, or recreational activities such as hiking on designated trails, and you can allow for the carefully defined management of the land, such as ecoforestry-based logging, or cutting a limited amount of firewood and felling danger trees.

The Dwarves Love Land Trusts

The Covenant must be held by two recognized Land Trusts, such as the Nanaimo Area Land Trust to provide additional security and stability. The organizations must be committed to monitor the land consistently with inspections every one to three years, to ensure that the landowner is upholding the terms of the Covenant.

A typical inspection of a small parcel of 10 to 20 acres might take a day, including a meeting with the owner and the related administrative work, which is done by trained staff or volunteers from the Land Trust, overseen by the dwarves. It is standard practice for the Land Trust to seek an endowment from the land-owner to cover these inspection and administrative costs over the long-term, ensuring their ongoing capacity to monitor and enforce the Covenant. Endowment amounts vary depending on the size and location of the land, the complexity of the monitoring and the circumstances surrounding each agreement. It is not uncommon for a land-owner to be asked to give an endowment in the range of $10-$20,000, the interest income from which, at an assumed 3 to 4% a year, covers the cost of inspections.

Saving Money by Saving the Forest

In the Gulf Islands, a Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program provides a 65% property tax exemption of the assessed value of land covenanted under the program, so the tax-savings from the first year could cover the cost of the survey. The Land Trusts Alliance of British Columbia, with 36-member trusts, is promoting the establishment of a province-wide Conservation Tax Incentive Program.

Property tax incentives also apply on lands classified as Private Managed Forest by BC Assessment to encourage private landowners to manage their lands for long term forest production. A minimum of 25 hectares is required, but the property may consist of more than one parcel if they are contiguous. The program requires a signed Management Commitment that is filed with the governing Council, along with yearly declarations and reporting on harvesting and other forest management activities. This does not provide protection to the forest, but simply encourages forest management. There are no provisions within this program for ecoforestry, and clearcutting is considered an acceptable method of harvesting. Owners of land with this classification are assured of the right to harvest trees, unrestricted by local government bylaws. While it does not promote ecoforestry values, the Private Managed Forest Act could be used by ecoforesters to reduce property taxes on their land.

Covenants are most effective when they are based on a standard legal template. The addition of ecoforestry clauses makes things more complicated, because the Dwarves want legal clarity down to the minutiae (a legal word they love), and ecoforestry – well, forests don’t work that way. Hard rules are easy to follow. Ecoforestry rules can potentially make things more difficult to monitor and enforce.

A Sustainable Forestry Covenant

Keith told us that they have created a sustainable forestry covenant on Galiano that allows logging using sustainable methods and an annual allowable cut of four cubic metres per hectare per year – roughly the equivalent of four telephone poles. If an increased cut is desired, a ten-year management plan acceptable to the Land Trust must be prepared by a Registered Forest Professional. Such a situation has not arisen yet, so they have no experience to go on. The BC Truck Loggers Association estimates that a typical second growth forest contains 400-600 cubic metres of timber per hectare. In a covenanted ecoforest, if harvesting was allowed at an assumed annual growth rate of 4% a year or less, this might yield 16 to 24 cubic metres per hectare per year, which would be represented in the management plan.

The advantage of ecoforestry is that it delivers a continuous timber supply from a cohesive managed forest, feeding local mills and contributing to a circular economy in which the whole landscape functions, growing wood and offering local value-added potential. The challenge is to define such harvesting in tight legal language. One possibility might be to define it negatively, allowing no harvesting that would create a clearcut larger than (for instance) 400 square metres. This is unknown territory, but the Covenant must be written in a way that will keep the Dwarves happy.

What Happens if the Orks Seize Control?

What happens if a future landowner sides with the Orks and says “I want the timber – screw the Covenant”? This is where the penmanship of the Dwarves comes in, for the Land Trust that holds the Covenant can enforce the regulations through charges (known as rent charges) or penalties that comes into effect if the covenant is in breach. The charges can be fixed or can vary according to the damage that has occurred. In the case of overharvesting, a common method is to levy a penalty of 200% of the market value of timber removed. If necessary, a covenant includes provisions that allow the holders to take the landowner to court. The covenant also can require him or her to restore the damage and restock the ecosystem, or enable the Land Trust to complete the work at the owner’s expense. Hard rules and photographs of a breach make it is easier for a Land Trust to enforce the breach, or if necessary, for the court to make its judgment.

What size parcel is best suited to a covenant? Keith replied that in most instances larger is better. A land trust with limited capacity and resources must be able to justify the expense and commitment of a covenant through the resulting ecological benefits.  On the other hand, if a group of landowners with smaller parcels live close to each other and make a cooperative arrangement, the inspections could be cheaper, with a single visit to the properties and a shared meeting – a celebratory occasion that people would look forward to each year when they would share forest wisdoms.

Another Possibility

Another possible way to protect the forest, Keith explained, is through a partnership with the local or regional government, a Land Trust, and a forest management group such as the Ecoforestry Institute Society. It would be based around the use of Section 99(a) of the Land Title Act, which allows a parcel to be subdivided creating one lot that would be transferred to the government body and a remainder lot that would stay with the landowner, with no road dedication or other typical requirements.

The notion here is that landowners wishing to protect their forest who consider ecoforestry management to be more important than private ownership could give ownership of the subdivided lot to the government body, to be protected and managed accordingly. The government would:

  • subdivide the parcel(s) to be protected under Section 99(a),
  • zone them for ecoforestry,
  • potentially place a single ecoforestry covenant on them, and
  • sign a forest management contract with an organization such as the Ecoforestry Institute Society that would manage the land in such a way that old growth composition, structure and function were gradually restored.

The landowners would surrender their ownership, but the forest would remain in their backyard forever and be managed as an ecoforest, a status which would hopefully be valued by future owners. If adjacent landowners felt the same way they could work together to create a single protected parcel of ecoforest that would be owned and managed by a single entity. It would be a complex project involving multiple partners, but it would provide a lasting guarantee of forest protection.

We Forest-Loving Hobbits Need to Gather!

What comes next? There are many forest land-owners in the Cedar-Yellow Point area, and some of us may be interested to place ecoforestry covenants on our land, or to pursue the Section 99 route. We Hobbits need to gather, and mull things over, over a mug of mulled ale.

If you would like to join us for such a gathering, at a time and place to be determined, please email us at yellowpoint2020@gmail.com

Guy Dauncey 250-924-1445

 

January 2019

gathering

Yellow Point Ecological Society, January 7, 2019

Greetings, everyone! We hope you survived the storm, the tree-falls and all the outages, and we know that for some, it was a hard struggle with the cold. Does anyone have suggestions as to how we can convey our gratitude to all the BC Hydro workers and tree-crews who gave up their Christmases so that we could enjoy ours? Our gratitude too to everyone who has started cleaning up our parks, where numerous trees are blocking the paths.

  1. Y.E.S. Holiday Gathering, Sunday January 13th, 2-5pm

This coming Sunday January 13th we invite to join us for a holiday celebration! Bring yourself, your stories about Yellow Point, your stories about the storm, and anything else (a song, a poem, a joke) that might amuse your friends and neighbours. Bring a snack to share, and we’ll provide hot drinks. We’ll also update you on our plans for the year ahead. It’s all happening at 13561 Barney Road, off Yellow Point Road. Please RSVP to give us a sense of numbers: yellowpoint2020@gmail.com

  1. The Yellow Point Roadside Trash Challenge

Many thanks to all our volunteers who are keeping their sections of our roads clean. Your silent work is appreciated. If anyone would care to adopt a stretch of Yellow Point Road from Michael Road heading west towards the Chuckwaggon, it’s in dire need of a clean-up! Here’s the map that shows which roadsides are covered, and which are not.

  1. Save Your Bottles and Cans for Y.E.S.!

Y.E.S. has Return-It accounts with the Ladysmith Junction Bottle Depot and the Nanaimo Recycling Depot on Old Victoria Road. So if you have cans or bottles that you are saving to return, do it for us! Before Christmas we returned 250 cans collected from one Roadside Trash Challenge route over the course of a year, earning us the princely sum of $25. At the depot, before they start counting your cans, tell them it’s for the Yellow Point Ecological Society, and the staff will find our account. Thanks!

  1. An Evening with Richard Hill, Thursday Feb 7th, 7pm

Mark it in your diary! On Thursday February 7th, Richard Hill, the owner of Yellow Point Lodge and lifetime Yellow Point resident, is joining us to share stories from Yellow Point’s past and present and his hopes for our future. At 13561 Barney Road, as usual.

  1. An Evening with Nancy Turner, Thur March 14th, 7pm

On Thursday March 14th Nancy Turner, esteemed ethnobotanist, will join us for an evening of stories and wisdom. Nancy’s research integrates botany and ecology with anthropology, geography and linguistics. She is particularly interested in the traditional knowledge and land and resource management systems of Indigenous Peoples. She has worked with First Nations elders and cultural specialists for over 40 years, collaborating to help document, retain and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and habitats, including Indigenous foods, materials and medicines, as well as language and vocabulary relating to plants and environments. Her interests include the roles of plants and animals in narratives, ceremonies, language and belief systems. At 13561 Barney Road, as usual.

  1. The 21 Acres on Roper Road

Following the loss of the Sixty Acres at the end of Long Lake Road, we were concerned not to lose the adjacent 21 Acres off Roper Road that came onto the market last fall. There is good news! The land has been purchased, but we can’t reveal the details until the deal has been  finalized. We’ll update you as soon as we are able to.

  1. Forest Covenants

In December, we were joined by Keith Erickson from the Galiano Conservation Association to learn more about Conservation and Ecoforestry Covenants. We’ll be sharing details of our meeting any day now.

That’s it for now. We hope to see you this Sunday afternoon! We’ve got a LOT more on our plate, with our full board of new directors, so there will be more news to follow.

PS Happy New Year! https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Rtajxo8d7js?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0

 

The Twelve Days of Yellow Point

Twelve

Happy Holidays to all our members and supporters!

On the first day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, a black bear in our apple tree.

On the second day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the third day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the fourth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the fifth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the sixth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the seventh day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the eighth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the ninth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the tenth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, ten cyclists cycling, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the eleventh day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, eleven hikers hiking, ten cyclists cycling, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

On the twelfth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, twelve flowers a-flowering, eleven hikers hiking, ten cyclists cycling, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.

Our 2018 President’s Report

cedar-yellow-point-watershed

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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. Partnerships

We have become organizational  members of the Coastal Douglas Fir Conservation Partnership, and the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. Scotch Broom

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.

  1. Holden Creek

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

An Opportunity to Build Homes in the Forest – with UPDATE

21 Acres Lane

Update: This land has been sold in a way that makes us very happy. Details coming soon!

Have you ever thought how you might like to live in the forest, immersed in Nature and surrounded by beauty and wildlife?

There’s a 21-acre parcel of forested land on the market in Yellow Point, at the end of Roper Road. Yellow Point is a jewel of a rural area that’s like a Gulf Island without the ferries, 20 minutes north of Ladysmith, 25 minutes south of Nanaimo. Continue reading “An Opportunity to Build Homes in the Forest – with UPDATE”

CVRD Area H Local Election, 2018

Our congratulations to Mary Marcotte,

on winning the election!

CVRD Area H

Our local election is this Saturday, October 20th. Who should you vote for in CVRD Area H? We assembled a Candidates’ Questionnaire on matters that concern us. Here are the candidates’ responses. Continue reading “CVRD Area H Local Election, 2018”

RDN Area A Local Election, 2018

Our congratulations to Keith Wilson,

on winning the election!

RDN Area A

Our local election is this Saturday, October 20th. Who should you vote for in Regional District of Nanaimo Area A? We have assembled a Candidates’ Questionnaire on matters that concern us. Here are the candidates’ responses.  Continue reading “RDN Area A Local Election, 2018”