Our Suggested Changes to the Private Managed Forest Lands Program

Changes

The members of the Yellow Point Ecological Society 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. www.yellowpointecologicalsociety.ca  

This paper is also available as a PDF Y.E.S. PMFLP Submission

 July 22, 2019

In BC, we have Crown forests. We have private forest lands, where most people live. We have public forests that are protected as parks. We have community forests, such as North Cowichan’s. And we have the Private Managed Forest Lands, which are actively harvested while being under private ownership.

Each type of forest is governed by different people and different rules. The urgent need that faces us, at this unprecedented time of climate and ecological emergency, is to find ways to manage the forests in which our needs for timber, income and jobs can be met while nature is nourished, carbon is stored and water is protected.

Very much to the point, the BC government is asking for our ideas on how the governance and management of Crown Lands and Private Managed Forest Lands might need changing. This paper is focussed on the latter. Our thoughts about Crown lands can be found on our website.

The climate emergency is such that we need to reduce our harmful carbon emissions as rapidly as we possibly can, while simultaneously increasing the means by which Earth’s forests, farms, grasslands and oceans re-absorb the dangerously excessive carbon.

The ecological emergency is such that the team of scientists who have written the Global Deal for Nature are urging that we need to preserve 50% of Earth’s lands in a natural state by 2030 if we are to have a hope of keeping global heating under the “danger zone” target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and prevent the world’s ecosystems from unravelling.[1]

The History of the Private Forest Lands

 The Private Managed Forest Lands on Vancouver Island have their origin in the 1875 E&N Rail Grant, when a quarter of Vancouver Island from Sooke to Campbell River (two million acres) was given to Robert Dunsmuir as part of the arrangement to build a railway on the Island. In the years between 1925 and 1960 the Dunsmuirs sold most of their lands to coal and forest companies.

Two big companies own the most Private Managed Forest Lands on Vancouver Island: TimberWest and Island Timberlands. Some of the Dunsmuir forest lands were bought by MacMillan Bloedel, which was later bought by Weyerhauser, parts of which were later bought by Brookfield Asset Management, which then created Island Timberlands, seeking a 12-15% return on equity, presuming industrial logging followed by real estate development.

Other forest lands were bought by the American pulp and paper conglomerate Crown Zellerbach, parts of which were bought by Fletcher Challenge, which over time became TimberWest in 1997. In the late 1990s, TimberWest developed a sustainability agreement with the government in which their Oyster River Division in the Comox Valley would harvest 400,000 cubic metres a year. In the late 1990s, however, TimberWest’s owners decided to become an Income Trust, which required them to provide a guaranteed 8% return to their unit holders. In pursuit of this they ditched the sustainability agreement and increased harvesting to 1.2 million cubic metres a year, to much community protest. In the years between 2008-2011, Brookfield Asset Management, Western Forest Products, Weyerhauser and TimberWest donated $290,000 to the BC Liberals.[2]

In 2011, TimberWest[3] and Island Timberlands[4] were bought by the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation for just over $1 billion. TimberWest’s core business is selling hemlock and Douglas fir logs from their 327,000 hectares to B.C and Pacific Rim markets. In 2011, Asian exports accounted for 70% of their log sales and revenue. In 2018 the two companies entered into an agreement to provide for shared use of facilities, align best practices and enhance forest stewardship, and they are now managed jointly by Mosaic Forest Management.[5]

With an eye on the long-term, TimberWest has earmarked 17% of its 322,000 hectares as being suited for real estate development in addition to forestry. Island Timberlands has done the same for 5% of its 256,000 hectares.

The Private Managed Forest Lands in total includes 278 private managed forests covering 818,000 hectares, from which 4.76 million cubic feet were harvested in 2017, representing 7% of BC’s timber harvest.

On Vancouver Island there are 201 managed forest, on which 33 owners harvested 8,861 hectares of forest, yielding 4.27 million cubic metres of timber (482 cubic metres/hectare), 28% of the Island’s timber harvest.[6] At 40 cubic metres per logging truck, that’s 107,000 trucks, which parked nose-to-tail would stretch 1819 km from Vancouver to Winnipeg.[7]

BC’s total average annual timber harvest is 77 million cubic metres, or 1.95 million logging trucks, which parked nose-to-tail would stretch for 33,000 kilometres, 7,000 km short of the circumference of the Earth.

Ecologically Sustainable Investments

The wants and needs of investors are defining motivators at heart of modern economies, accompanied by the externalization of costs to nature, communities and workers, in accordance with the principles of neo-classical economics. The natural growth rate of timber in forests on the east coast of Vancouver Island is 2%-4%, but TimberWest’s investors at the time demanded 8%. The only possible sources of a return higher than the natural growth rate are increased productivity, which is currently pushed to the limit with the use of feller-bunchers, decreased wage-costs, reduced payment of taxes, or unsustainable harvesting. The additional return could be achieved by liquidating the forest over 20 years and then selling the company to a private equity (leveraged buy-out) firm, but this would be vulture capitalism at its worst, close to piracy, with the forest being the stolen booty.

As the sole intermediary between the government and the private sector, the Private Managed Forest Lands Council bears the responsibility for ensuring that large land-owning companies do not abuse the privileges they receive through the Program by exploiting the forests under their stewardship in a non-sustainable manner. The forests have been here for 12,000 years, and if we manage them responsibly, and if they can survive ecological disruptions caused by the climate crisis, they will be here for many thousands of years to come.

Map 1Island Timberlands Forest LandsMap 2TimberWest Forest Lands

Private 2Vancouver Island Private Managed Forest Lands https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/491/2019/05/PMFL_Lands_Southwest.pdf

Troubles on the Land (1) – Watershed Impacts

Many people in the Comox Valley, the Nanaimo watershed and the Cowichan Valley have been troubled by the way the big companies have been logging. In the Comox Valley, mountainsides have been stripped bare of their timber, silt and mud is being washed away, the rivers are flooding in winter, and there are boil water advisories in the summer. In consequence, the CVRD is having to build a sophisticated underwater pumping station and an onshore pump station with filtration, chlorination and UV treatment, costing local taxpayers a probable $125 million. When New York City’s 9.5 million residents were faced with a $10 billion cost to build new water filtration plants, plus $100 million a year to maintain them, they found that they could achieve the same result by investing $1.5 billion in watershed restoration with 368 local landowners.[8]

In July 2019 the Narwhal reported that: “In Peachland in the Okanagan, where extensive logging has taken place nearby, a landslide downslope of a logging road contributed to boil-water advisories and the need for a new $24 million water treatment plant funded by the community. In Grand Forks, sprawling clearcuts are believed to have played a major role in a monster flood in 2018 that inundated houses and led to the closure of 28 downtown businesses. In the Regional District of Central Kootenay — which stretches from the U.S. border to north of Nakusp and includes Glade and the cities of Nelson and Castlegar — at least seven communities face clear-cut logging on slopes that are home to the creeks that supply their drinking water.”[9]

Because of the heavy logging, the Columbian blacktail deer that used to browse on lichen hanging from old growth trees at upper elevations to get them through the winter have been forced down into the valleys to feed on gardens and fruit trees. In the Cowichan Valley, similar problems have arisen: mountainsides stripped bare, flooding in winter, and the Cowichan river drying up in summer, threatening the spawning grounds of the coho, and the spring salmon, on which the southern killer whales depend.[10] The warming climate and shrinking glaciers are also contributing, demonstrating how the different impacts combine.

Troubles on the Land (2) – Climate Impacts

Clearcut logging has big climate impacts. A healthy growing forest is a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 through photosynthesis and storing it as carbon in the timber and soil. In consequence, over the millennia BC’s forests have become a huge store of carbon. Old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest with a timber volume of 1500-1800 cubic metres per hectare hold carbon stocks that vary from 750 to 1130 tonnes per hectare, with 30-50% being stored in the soil and 400 to 500 tonnes in the trees.[11]

When the timber is cut and used for pulp or paper and the soil is disturbed each cubic metre of timber releases a tonne of CO2. The 4,270,000 cubic metres that are logged each year in the Private Managed Forest Lands on Vancouver Island therefore release some 4.27 million tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of a million cars driving on the road for a year. BC’s total harvest, averaging 77 million cubic metres, releases 77 million tonnes of CO2, compared to 62 million tonnes for BC’s annual emissions from everything else.

Once clearcut, a hectare of forest debris becomes a net source of 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year. The shift from source to sink occurs at around 17 years, and a near-end-of-rotation stand (50-60 years-old) stores 15 tonnes per hectare.[12] The Sierra Club has estimated that Including forest fires, BC’s net forest emissions totalled 209 million tonnes a year in 2017 and 2018, three times more than all other emissions combined.[13] For the average log, the Sierra Club estimates that 23% of the carbon is stored in timber products; the BC government estimates 52%.[14]

How Does the Private Managed Forest Lands Program Work?

 In 2004, the Forest Land Reserve Act was repealed, the Forest Land Reserves were dissolved, and the Private Managed Forest Land Act was enacted “to encourage sustainable forest management and protect key environmental values on private managed land.” The owners of the 278 managed forest properties, which range in size from 3.5 hectares to 166,000 hectares, make a commitment to meet five general environmental objectives, covering soil conservation, water quality, fish habitat, wildlife habitat and reforestation. They pay for the program’s operating costs through a levy of 13 cents/cubic metre, and in return they receive a municipal tax reduction. In 2011, on Cortes Island, Island Timberlands paid $5-6/acre, compared to $62/acre for other landowners. On its 1,800 hectares, over 20 years the program will save Island Timberlands $4.7 million in property taxes.

The program is managed by a five-person Private Managed Forest Land Council, consisting of two owner reps, two government reps, and a jointly chosen chair. They make and enforce regulations, make compliance determinations, conduct inspections and audits, review landowner applications, and review annual declarations by the owners. Inspections are made by hired professional foresters at least once every 5 years, and they boast a 99.5% compliance rate, based on a 15% inspection rate. There is no First Nations engagement, no community engagement, no public environmental engagement, no public input into logging plans, and no long-term planning.

Regarding methods of logging, forest landowners are not required to submit a plan for approval, and they are not constrained on their annual timber volumes – there are no sustainable harvest level requirements. They have to follow standards of practice with regard to harvesting, stream protection, road construction/maintenance, and reforestation, and they have to honour the five environmental objectives. The devil is in the details, however:

  • Soil conservation: Owners have to follow set practices with regard to road-building, but not for general logging.
  • Water quality: Owners have to pay attention to Local Water Intakes (LWI), but not to water run-off in a watershed as a whole.
  • Fish habitat protection: streams are classified by width, and whether they are fish-bearing or upstream of an LWI. Tree-retention is required for most, varying from 30 metres for A to 15 metres for C. On streams classified D or E, which are less than 1.5 metres wide, no tree retention is required. Riparian buffers are measured on slope distance without being corrected to horizontal, enabling smaller buffers with less tree retention adjacent to steep slopes.
  • Wildlife habitat: measures must be taken to protect species listed in the Wildlife Act and the Species at Risk Act such as the red-legged frog, but not for non-threatened species.[15] Biological studies are not required before harvesting, so unless an owner chooses voluntarily to engage a professional, there is no formal means by which species and habitats at risk might be identified and protected.
  • Reforestation: newly cleared forest areas must be restocked within 5 years and successfully regenerated within 15 years, but there is no requirement to protect the best or oldest trees that drop seeds of proven genetic quality, allowing natural regeneration while also producing the big dead wildlife snags that have ecological value.
  • There is no mention of any need to consider or mitigate forest carbon loss.
  • There is no mention of any need to protect community drinking watersheds.
  • There is no mention of any need to take measures to reduce fire risk.
  • There is no mention of any need to consider cumulative ecological and hydrological impacts from activities within a shared watershed.

Suggested Changes

Governance

How can a broader, more ecologically inclusive perspective be brought to the governance of the program?

  1. We suggest expanding membership of the Council to include more people, bringing in people who have climate, ecological, and ecological forest management expertise, and First Nations heritage.
  2. We suggest forming regionally-based Forest Stewardship Advisory Councils, including participants from First Nations, universities, regional districts, local communities, local mills, forestry organizations and ecological organizations, to meet twice a year to review practices and make recommendations for change.
  3. We suggest that forest owners be required to post their harvesting plans and invite public input prior to operations commencing.

Mandate

  1. We suggest widening the mandate of the program, adding six new objectives to serve the common interest in ways that are clear and measurable.
  • To ensure that watersheds that are the source of drinking water for local communities produce consistent, high quality, naturally filtered drinking water.
  • To reduce average forest carbon emissions per hectare and increase average forest carbon storage per hectare over the long-term (200 years).
  • To increase climate resilience by means of ecological forest management.
  • To reduce fire risk by thinning and other means at both stand and landscape levels.
  • To engage in long-term 200-year forest planning and set sustainable harvest and thinning rates which will help to advance a regenerating forest along the old growth curve, using ecological forest management methods including landscape planning, canopy retention, multi-age trees, the preservation of wildlife snags, and natural regeneration from identified seed trees.
  • To engage with First Nations and local communities to identify community values, sites of special interest, and locations for hiking and mountain bike trails on ownership parcels larger than 1,000 hectares, in accordance with the spirit of the Right to Roam legislation that was put before the BC Legislature in 2017 to ensure the right of citizens “to access public lands, rivers streams and lakes and to use these spaces to hunt, fish and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.”[16]

When considering how forest owners respond to the proposed new mandates, we recommend that a distinction be made between large and small landowners, since there is a big difference between the management of forest land covering 166,000 hectares and land covering 40 hectares.

Site Management

  1. We suggest four site-management changes:
  • 60-metre no-harvest zones along lakes and Class A streams, 40 metres alongside streams Class B and C, and 20 metres along streams classes D and E, all to be measured on slope distance corrected to the horizontal from the high water mark of a stream.
  • End slash pile burning, in accordance with work being done by the Coastal Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative and partners in the Cowichan Valley. We suggest that measures are developed to quantify air quality changes and the anticipated reduction in respiratory ailments, bringing healthcare cost savings.
  • End spraying with glyphosate and other harmful herbicides to eliminate trees that are economically less valuable but still ecologically important.[17] Glyphosate has been shown to increase the risk of cancer to those exposed by 41%.[18]
  • Require a secondary species planting program on recently harvested lands including cottonwood, maple, bitter cherry and alder, mimicking the natural forest succession process and providing important forest ecology properties including wildlife habitat.

Wildlife and Species at Risk

  1. If a biological or ecological study is not conducted it is not possible to identify species at risk before harvesting. Given the urgency of the global ecological crisis, regarding which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature reported in July 2019 that a third of all assessed species are now red-listed as being in danger of extinction, we suggest that a study by a professional biologist prior to harvesting is required, and that criteria for the protection of identified endangered species and their habitats should be codified.[19]

Watershed Protection

  1. In order to protect community drinking water supplies that depend on the hydrological integrity of a watershed as a whole, not just on Local Water Intakes, we suggest that the community watershed guidelines that were grandparented into the Forest and Range Practices Act in 2004 be written into the legislation governing the Private Managed Forest Lands, and that a hydrological study followed by sign-off from the relevant Regional District be required before harvesting in a community watershed can occur.[20]

When the Forest Practices Board studied community watersheds managed under the FRPA in 2014, they found that:

  • Requirements to protect drinking water were not clear or well understood.
  • Commitments made in forestry plans were not always enforceable.
  • Greater emphasis needed to be placed on erosion and sediment control on forestry roads.[21]

In support of the FPB’s recommendations to ensure that the government’s objectives for community watersheds are achieved, we suggest that the Private Managed Forest Lands Program:

  • Clarifies requirements for the protection of water.
  • Defines the concept of cumulative hydrological effects.
  • Requires publicly available harvesting plans to include hydrological analysis which includes cumulative hydrological effects.
  • Ensures that professional reliance assessments are meaningful.
  • In partnership with Regional Districts, monitors water quality in community watersheds and tracks their status.

We further recommend that members of the Private Managed Forest Lands Council urge the government to fully implement the Water Sustainability Act, which would go 60% of the way towards protecting critical community watersheds.

Ecological Restoration

  1. We suggest that large forest land owners be required to set aside a financial reserve in a Private Managed Forest Lands Program Account for the purpose of ecological restoration following defined damage, those moneys to be foregone if the restoration does not proceed, or if the consequences of the damage before restoration have to be offset (for instance) through municipal water treatment. Carefully defined criteria will be needed to evaluate damage and create financial and legal certainty.

Other Suggested Changes

  1. Silviculture Savings Account: Considering the uneven annual flow of income to land owners owning smaller parcels of forest, resulting in higher taxation in harvest years and lower taxation in non-harvest years, we suggest that the Ministry of Finance create a Silviculture Savings Account, similar in character to an RRSP or RESP, allowing earnings to be stored and taxed when they are withdrawn, unless the withdrawal is for a silvicultural investment.
  2. Conservation Tax Incentive Program: Considering the ecological values that are enhanced by the practice of ecological forest management, retaining the canopy and managing a forest with the intent to restore old growth qualities, we suggest that the Ministry of Finance consider creating a Forestry Class Exemption, and/or a Conservation Tax Incentive Program similar in spirit to the Agricultural tax reduction.
  3. Density-transfer: Considering that some private forest land owners may have no intention or desire to develop their land in accordance with their permitted residential densities, we suggest that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs develop a province-wide set of density-transfer regulations, enabling forest land owners to sell their density rights into other approved areas.
  4. Two hectare lower limit: Considering that many small land owners may be interested to harvest timber from their forest lands in a sustainable manner, we suggest that where landowners become members of a locally established forestry association or cooperative, as is common in Finland, the lower limit for the program be reduced from 3.5 to 2 hectares.

Other Forestry-Related Suggestions

We would like consideration for these related suggestions, which may or may not fall under the Private Managed Forest Land Program’s remit:

  1. Trees as a Farm Crop: On private land classed as farmland, we suggest that the Ministry of Forests work with the Ministry of Agriculture to enable trees to be declared a farm crop for farming purposes, enabling forest-farmers to qualify for the agricultural land tax credit. The current list of qualifying crops only includes Christmas trees and the intense cultivation of plantations of poplar and willow.[22]
  2. A Forest Thinning Incentive Program: We suggest that the Ministry of Forests work with the Ministry of Finance to develop a forest thinning incentive program to reduce fire risk, increase multi-age species representation, and advance a forest down the oldgrowth curve.
  3. A Forest Carbon Incentive Program: We suggest that the Ministry of Forests work with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Finance to develop a Forest Carbon Incentive Program, establishing regulatory mechanisms and financial incentives to reduce average carbon emissions per hectare and increase average carbon storage per hectare, to contribute to the missing 25% of emissions reductions in the province’s CleanBC 2030 goals.[23]
  4. Transition to Ecological Forest Management: We suggest that in light of the urgency of the climate and ecological emergencies, the Ministry of Forests work with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at UVic and the UBC School of Forestry and the Ministry of Finance to develop a ten-year transition for all forests in BC to ecological forest management. The knowledge base already exists through fifty years of ecological forest management science, some of which was well-expressed in BC’s old Forest Practices Code. We suggest using incentives for five years, followed by a regulatory approach if the incentives do not produce the needed results.

END

Contact: Guy Dauncey, President. guydauncey@earthfuture.com   250-924-1445

[1] Global Deal for Nature: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/science-study-outlines-30-percent-conservation-2030/

[2] Private communication from Rick James, Comox Valley resident.

[3] TimberWest: https://www.timberwest.com

[4] Island Timberlands: https://islandtimberlands.com

[5] Mosaic Forest Management: https://www.mosaicforests.com

[6] Managed Forest Council Annual Report, 2017/2018. http://mfcouncil.ca/2017-annual-report/

[7] Trucks 17 metres long, distance 1,819 kilometres

[8] New York City: https://www.edf.org/blog/2018/08/28/how-300-farmers-are-saving-new-york-city-billions

[9] Narwhal: https://thenarwhal.ca/you-cant-drink-money-kootenay-communities-fight-logging-protect-drinking-water

[10] Cowichan River: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/low-water-levels-cowichan-river-hatching-salmon-1.5049794

[11] Carbon storage: https://pics.uvic.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/WP_Forestry_November2008.pdf

[12] https://pics.uvic.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/WP_Forestry_November2008.pdf

[13] Sierra Club: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/sierra-club-report-forest-carbon-emissions-1.4995191

[14] BC forest carbon emissions: https://sierraclub.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Forest-Emissions-Detailed-Backgrounder_June22.pdf

[15] Wildlife guidance: https://www.cab-bc.org/file-download/guidance-resource-professionals-managing-species-risk-bc

[16] Right to Roam: https://mountainclubs.org/right-to-roam/

[17] Glyphosate: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/it-blows-my-mind-how-b-c-destroys-a-key-natural-wildfire-defence-every-year-1.4907358

[18] Glyphosate: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/health/us-glyphosate-cancer-study-scli-intl/index.html

[19] IUCN Study: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/18/iucn-red-list-reveals-wildlife-destruction-from-treetop-to-ocean-floor

[20] Community drinking water: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/water-quality/community-watersheds

[21] Forest Practices Board: https://www.bcfpb.ca/news-resources/news-releases/protection-of-drinking-water-in-community-watersheds-examined/

[22] Qualifying agricultural use: https://info.bcassessment.ca/Services-products/property-classes-and-exemptions/farm-land-assessment/farm-classification-in-british-columbia/Apply-for-farm-classification

[23] CleanBC: https://cleanbc.gov.bc.ca

Some Suggested Changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act

Forest Practices Act

The BC Ministry of Forests is asking for our thoughts on how they should reform the Forest and Range Practices Act, with a deadline of Monday July 15th for comments.

https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/consultation/forest-and-range-practices-act/

To help in your considerations these are our suggested changes, drawing on thoughts from the Sierra Club, the Ancient Forests Alliance, the Forest Practices Board, and others.

Because we live in a democracy:

Continue reading “Some Suggested Changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act”

Lübeck: Another Way of Logging

By Guy Dauncey

There is a forest in Germany that people are talking about. While most of Germany’s forests are in a sorry state, losing their magic, losing nature and lacking older trees, this forest is gaining magic and supporting nature while providing its foresters with a steady income.

The forest belongs to the city of Lübeck, a beautiful Hanseatic port north-east of Hamburg, close to Denmark, whose tourist officers have labelled it ‘The Venice of the North’ because of its many canals, just as ours have labelled the Cowichan Valley ‘The New Provence’. Its community forest, some 5,000 hectares in size, is mostly beech and oak, mixed with ash, maple, hornbeam, elm, birch and alder, with some coniferous spruce, pine, larch and Douglas fir.

kirschstubben

The land has been covered by forest for more than two hundred and fifty years, but in 1994 Lübeck’s chief forester proposed a change in the way it was managed. Instead of the conventional method of logging with heavy machinery followed by replanting he wanted to try a new approach called ‘close to nature’, or ‘near-natural forest use’, which was developed in cooperation with scientists and nature conservationists. The city approved the change to “use wood and preserve the forest”, the citizens endorsed the change by referendum, and the forest has been managed this way ever since.

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The city manages its forest with four objectives in mind. First, to be a natural forest for the people of Lübeck to enjoy, where nature can teach the residents of Lübeck and visitors about the natural functions of a forest and how a healthy forest can help sustain life on the planet. Second, to meet the commercial needs of the forest industry through sustainable management, with a focus on felling large trees on a needs basis, with buyers going into the forest to select the trees they want. Third, to contribute to the conservation of nature, enhancing biodiversity through the preservation of natural habitats. And fourth, to be a store of carbon, contributing to efforts to slow the climate crisis.

The chief forester, Knut Sturm, says their primary rule is to allow the forest to follow its own ecological nature. He uses the phrases ‘close to nature’ and ‘near-natural forest use’ to describe their guiding principles. Over the long-term, he seeks a forest management path that will yield the lowest risk and the most productive development. To achieve this, he and his team of thirty district foresters and forest workers harvest mature trees while working to improve the closeness of the forests to nature and to raise the quality of the remaining trees.

cutting activity

In practical terms, this means no clearcuts; no use of toxins or fertilizers, ensuring that forest-walkers can breathe pure air; no drainage of wetlands; no surface clearing or slash-burning of brush piles; no work during ecologically sensitive seasons (spring and summer); and no use of large machines that would damage and compact the soil. Large trees are felled individually or in groups of two or three. They are dragged out of the forest by horses, which slalom their way between the trees, having minimal impact on the soil, and brought to assembly areas where they are winched onto trucks and taken to a local sawmill.

horse work2

Soil impact is a big consideration for Knut Sturm and his team. They are inspired by the findings in the book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by the German forester Peter Wohlleben, who has worked alongside Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at UBC. The trees have an underground network of canals and pores that aerate the soil, ensuring water absorption and the conveyance of nutrients. The roots are connected by fungi, enabling them to exchange information about water and nutrients. When soil is loose, the trees root more deeply, giving them better protection against storms. When the soil is compacted by heavy machinery their roots have to grow closer to the surface, making them more susceptible to blow-down.

soil

471 hectares are left entirely untouched to serve as reference areas for nature’s ways; the goal is that the managed areas should look almost identical to the reference areas. They never plant any trees, but leave that to nature, and the millions of seeds that fall each October. In doing so, they have learnt that trees germinated naturally grow better than sown or planted trees, the same lesson that our local ecoforester Merv Wilkinson learnt in his forest at Wildwood, Cedar, just north of Ladysmith.

 

They protect wildlife trees and dead trees for birds, bats, insects and fungi, and are proud that their forests support otters, the endangered black stork, and 180 pairs of breeding middle-spotted woodpeckers, whose numbers have increased significantly in recent years.

black stork

On good beech tree sites, where trees are competing, thinning is done two or three times until the trees reach 40 cm diameter at breast height, after which no further thinning is needed to improve the quality of the beeches. The target diameters for commercial felling are 45 cm for spruce, 50 cm for pine, 75 cm for beech and 80 cm for oak.

23-51980086

So what of their timber data? I know this will be of interest to those who want to consider different ways to manage North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest, which is a similar size. Lubeck’s goal is deliberately not to maximize the forest yield; they want to balance social, ecological and economic needs, while growing the forest as a whole. In the timber-managed area of 4,670 hectares, in 1996 the forest held 315 cubic metres of timber per hectare (m3/ha). By 2004 this had increased to 340 m3/ha and by 2018 to 429 m3/ha. In 1994 the annual incremental growth was 8-10 m3/ha; now it is 10-12 m3/ha. Their goal is to reach a total forest inventory of 600 to 800 m3/ha, both as a store of carbon and as the forest recovers its old-growth characteristics. For a comparative table, see below.

In 2016 they cut 14,500 m3 at a rate of 3.2 m3/ha, including 800 m3 of high-quality oak, which sells for around 430 euros per cubic metre (Can $609). They also provided 2,500 cubic metres of timber for firewood and other wood products for the people of Lubeck. On average, the trees felled are 10-20 cm wider than those felled in conventional forests. The older a beech tree, the firmer its wood, and the more it sells for. Their rule of thumb is that wood from deciduous trees should sell for three times the harvesting cost, while coniferous wood should sell for 1.5 times. Of the 14,500 cubic metres felled, 3,500 m3 was left in the forest for soil improvement and as dead wood, and 11,000 m3 were sold:

  • 3,500 m3 high-quality deciduous: 75% value-added products, 25 % firewood
  • 1,000 m3 low-quality deciduous: 20% value-added products, 70% building timber, 15% firewood
  • 6,500 m3 coniferous: 20% value-added products, 65% building timber, 10% pulp

By following their ‘close to nature’ methods their costs have been reduced drastically, and their timber, since it has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, sells for a premium. The Otto Group, which has pledged itself to offer exclusively FSC certified furniture until 2025, has shown a great interest in the Lübeck forest. On average, the sale of timber generates $1.9 million a year.

jeder-dritte-deutsche-kauft-moebel-im-internet-otto-gmbh-co-kg

Their employees do not just work at their forestry jobs. Theirs is a municipal forest pursuing multiple objectives, so they are also responsible for the maintenance and care of the nature reserves, and 250 kilometres of hiking, equestrian  and cycling trails. The trails are well-used, with more than 120 events including many educational school trips a year, as well as daily enjoyment by Lübeck’s citizens.

wo-der-wald-zum-erlebnis-wird_big_teaser_article

Germany’s environmental and business communities have sat up and paid attention to what’s happening in Lübeck. They have been supported by large organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Robin Wood, and have received awards from the European Paper Industry and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Environment. In 2018, Dr. Lutz Fähser (Chief Forester from 1994-2009) and Knut Sturm were awarded the renowned B.A.U.M. Environmental Prize for their role in making Stadtwald Lübeck an internationally recognized role model for near-natural forest-use and sustainable forest management. The B.A.U.M. award is one of the best-known and most coveted sustainability awards among German companies.

knut sturm_dr. lutz faehser (c) privatDr. Lutz Fähser and Knut Sturm

Lübeck’s public is happy too. In 2017, two-thirds of respondents to a survey said they preferred the wilder forest look and feel to more orderly conventional forests. Social acceptance by environmental organizations and by the citizens of Lübeck is important, providing an important foundation for successful forestry. Their methods of ecoforestry have recently been adopted by other German cities, including Berlin, Munich, Bonn, Saarbrucken, Wiesbaden, Hannover, Uelzen, Mühlheim an der Ruhr and Göttingen.

Our Coastal Douglas fir forests on Vancouver Island are a world away from Germany’s forests of beech and oak, but forests follow nature’s rules all over the world. The parallels between Lübeck’s experience and ours in North Cowichan are fascinating, and I hope they receive further exploration. Merv Wilkinson operated his much smaller Wildwood forest on these principles for seventy years in Cedar, south of Nanaimo. He harvested the annual growth without any clearcutting, and after sixty years his forest had more timber in it than when he started, showing that the ‘close to nature’ method of managing a forest can happen here too, on Vancouver Island.

understory

Coastal Douglas fir forest at Wildwood, managed on the same principles as Lübeck

To learn more about Lübeck’s experience, find yourself a German speaker and settle down to enjoy these videos, which take you into the forest itself.

Video Lubeck Forest 1

www.tinyurl.com/lubeckforest2           www.tinyurl.com/lubeckforest3  

North Cowichan Lubeck
Size of harvestable forest (hectares) 5,000 4,670
Size of no-harvest reference forest (hectares) 0 471
Total timber volume per hectare (cubic metres) 486 429
Average annual allowable cut (cubic metres) 20,000 14,500
Actual cut in 2017 (cubic metres) 10,585 14,500
Replanting (seedlings in 2017) 49,000 0
Average clearcut block size (hectares) 7 0
Jobs created (2017) 8.5 30
Income (2017) $1,152,000 $1,900,000*

*Average income, 2015-2018.

Many thanks to Knut Sturm and Torsten Welle and the Naturwald Akadamie in Lübeck for their assistance. More Lübeck photos below.

Published in Valley Voice, February 2019.

Hyla Woods, Oregon. Another great example of ‘close to nature’ forestry on 1,000 acres: http://hylawoods.com/about/video

Guy Dauncey is President of the Yellow Point Ecological Society and the author of Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible. www.journeytothefuture.ca

Where Do We Stand? Sign the Petition to North Cowichan Council

https://www.wheredowestand.ca/letter-to-the-mayor-and-council-january-2019

Save our North Cowichan Community Forests – Watch the video

March 5th, Community Assembly in Duncan

On Tuesday March 5th: The Secret of the Six Forests: A Community Assembly for Public Forests, in the Performing Arts Centre, Duncan. Speakers include Icel Dobell, Andy McKinnon, Erik Piikkila and Guy Dauncey.

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lubeck logslubeck truck

lubeck sawmill

luebeck-wald-stadtwald-gp04ese

seldom bird (wood warbler) normally in primary forests

middle-spotted woodpecker

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. They can also be held by government entities such as the CVRD, RDN or Ministry of Forests.

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

 

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 parcel of land has been sold in a way that makes us very happy. A German couple who have roots on the Island have bought the 21 Acres for the sole purpose of preserving the forest, and creating a partnership with Wildwood to practice ecoforestry on the land..

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.

The land has not been logged for years, and fifty years ago it was managed by Merv Wilkinson, of Wildwood fame. As Yellow Point residents, we would love to welcome new people to the area who share our appreciation and respect for the forest.