Gambier Island logging plans may meet legal action

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      Residents are sounding the alarm on the B.C. government’s plans to earmark 25 percent of Gambier Island for logging.

      Peter Snell, a director of the Gambier Island Conservancy, told the Georgia Straight the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations has been “ignoring the public entirely” concerning the proposed establishment of two neighbouring woodlots covering 1,326 hectares of Crown land.

      “It’s a huge chunk,” the lawyer, who has a summer home on the island, said by phone. “Gambier, we call it the wild heart of Howe Sound because it is one of the last remaining areas of wilderness that is this close to Metro Vancouver.”

      Gambier, just north of Bowen Island, is already home to a 402-hectare woodlot. The province has received six bids for each of the new woodlots, which include old-growth trees and hiking trails.

      On Thursday (July 24), from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the ministry will hold a “public information meeting” at St. Francis-in-the-Wood Anglican Church (4773 South Piccadilly Road) in West Vancouver. A “public drop-in” will take place on Friday (July 25), from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Sewell’s Marina (6409 Bay Street) in Horseshoe Bay.

      According to Snell, the ministry added the drop-in after Gambier residents complained about the arrangements for the meeting.

      “They have such a disconnect with the community that they didn’t even realize that the time and place they set, it was impossible for people who are residents of Gambier to get to the meeting and get home that same night,” Snell said.

      Forests Minister Steve Thomson wasn’t available for an interview. A government information package says woodlot licensees must seek public input and get ministry approval for their plans before logging can begin.

      Map of proposed and existing woodlots on Gambier Island.
      Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations

      Snell asserted the ministry should have consulted stakeholders before defining the woodlots. He said the conservancy may pursue legal action against the ministry for “failing to abide by their own rules”.

      “I think they feel that the only way they’re ever going to get this place logged—some of the most valuable timber in the Lower Mainland area—is by jamming it through,” Snell said. “Any pause, any stop, and they know that it will be really hard to ever get people to agree to log old-growth forest this close to Vancouver.”



      Erik Leifsson

      Jul 23, 2014 at 7:49pm

      I don't think its a good idea logging Gambier island. Small scale selective logging maybe, but the size of the proposed lots is not acceptable.As you can see all proposed areas are around fish bearing creeks and many of the locals rely on the creeks for a water supply. Gambier island is also host to many species of flora and fauna.

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      Dorothy Pohl

      Jul 23, 2014 at 9:18pm

      Gambier Island is the gem of Howe Sound. Howe Sound has come back to life with it's flora and fauna, and our government now seeks to destoy what has come back by destroying our forests. 25% of Gambier Island being logged is unacceptable for wildlife, watersheds, and water sources on the island. I urge everyone to attend the public information meetings in West Vancouver to oppose the opening of the bids. Our government has sought to push this process through without reasonable community consultation. I must ask ... why are public information meetings not held on island, as well? Perhaps those in power know that our ferry schedule to the mainland does not permit islanders to attend a meeting in West Vancouver!!! Shame on you, Mr. Steve Thomson, for ignoring Gambier islanders.

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      Kathy McTaggart

      Jul 24, 2014 at 8:15am

      Per Stephen Chessor above:

      "...about five hectares per year per woodlot, which is less than 1% of the woodlot area"

      The 1% per year is likely to be 5% every 5 years, done when the wood price is highest during the 5-year plan. There are also bridges across Gambier Creek, a designated watershed, and the roads through logged areas, which never come back to forest. Huge impact on a beautiful, untouched area.

      Even when re-forested, it will never be the same--and all this for about $1 million upfront--once only--to the government (less than the price of a westside home in Vancouver, plus about $10,000 per year to the provincial government--what a giveaway on OUR public land, in Howe Sound, Metro Vancouver's recreational backyard.

      NONE of the significant old-growth already mapped in the two proposed woodlot areas has been designated protected "Old Growth Management Areas" by FLNRO, so good-bye old growth!

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      Susan Turton

      Jul 24, 2014 at 2:11pm

      It is absolutely astounding ,the lack of foresight in the devastation of British Columbia,as government,corporations,and multi-nationals bully on through with greed ,reaping the benefits while destroying nature.Is it not time for a change,a better system,like the Norweigan model? Rage Mair has an excellent article in The Tyee newspaper on being a British Columbian first.Without a healthy environment, we are all in danger.

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      Brenda Martin

      Jul 24, 2014 at 4:10pm

      There's only one person interviewed for this article so we're not getting both sides of the story here.

      The woodlot program is the right type of forestry tenure for Gambier because they are small in scale and tend to focus on locally important forest values. In many cases, woodlots are locally owned and operate with services provided by contractors living in the community. Each of the new woodlots proposed on Gambier Island has a 3,000 m3/year annual allowable cut. At that rate, it will take approximately 100 years to completely harvest the woodlots at which point the seedlings planted in much of the harvested forest will have grown into a vibrant new stand of trees. Woodlots are the farmer market of forestry tenures. You can find out more about them here:

      There are about 55,000 old growth management areas (OGMAs) in BC currently, covering an area of approximately 3.9 million hectares. The Howe landscape unit plan has established old growth management areas on Gambier Island and they are outside the boundaries of these proposed woodlots just like they're supposed to be.

      Forestry is an undeniable part of our community with 121 forest professionals living on the North Shore. These forest professionals make up only a small part of the forest industry as a whole. Many people living in the North Shore and Howe Sound area make their living working in BC’s sustainable and renewable forest industry. Several of them will be at the public meeting tonight to tell their side of the story.

      Often in the media, it’s implied that the working forest — the land base available for logging — is really big. But here’s how the numbers actually breakdown:
      - There’s 15.8 million hectares in the Coast Forest Region land base. That’s all the land — towns, golf courses, highways, parks, forests.
      - Of that 15.8 million hectares, 7.6 million hectares (48 per cent) is productive forest — land that produces trees big enough to harvest.
      - There’s 3.14 million hectares that’s protected. That’s 20 per cent of the land base.
      - There’s only 2.5 million hectares in the timber harvesting land base, the land where active forest management is allowed to occur. That’s 16 per cent of the land base.

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      Bruce Blackwell

      Jul 25, 2014 at 9:19am

      I am writing on behalf of the Consulting Foresters of BC. As forest professionals engaged in the ongoing management of BC’s natural resources, we believe that the Government is committed to striking a balance with the multiple resource values on the Island, including management of the working forest, and to address public input that has been requested and received for this area.

      Gambier Island is part of BC’s working forest and we are proud to be a part of BC’s sustainable forest sector.

      It is disappointing, however, to see the misleading rhetoric suggesting that the woodlots will all be logged immediately. This is simply not true as only a fraction of any woodlot area is logged on an annual or periodic (harvesting every five years) basis.

      It’s time to acknowledge that some people will never be happy with forest resource development despite the efforts our members and the BC Government have put into ensuring sustainable resource development and striking a balance with BC’s many stakeholder needs.

      The forest industry and a big piece of the BC economy relies on the entire working forest. If we continue to reduce our sustainable working forest, BC’s coastal communities will be giving up real jobs and lose millions of dollars of government revenue that pays for hospitals, doctors and teachers (yes … the ones that are on strike due to a lack of funding from government).

      We strongly encourage the residents of Gambier Island and the Gambier Conservancy to engage with government while the award of woodlots is delayed, to fully understand woodlot management and in the end to support local jobs by allowing the Gambier Island Woodlots to be awarded.

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      Ted Debiase

      Jul 25, 2014 at 9:36am

      I urge people to find out all the facts when it comes to this area and the proposed woodlot before jumping to conclusions. I observe that the most vocal concern on this matter is the NIMBY upper-class that have a very narrow idea of what is actually involved in the management of a woodlot. This area will not be "devastated", but managed over the long term including requirements for the protection of streams, soils, wildlife, and other non-timber values. We've come a long way since the early 90s and Clayquout, and there may still be room for improvement in the way forests are managed in BC, but done right a Gambier woodlot can be a good thing. Many other of our Gulf Islands have woodlots including Quadra, Texada and Valdes islands. There are also numerous woodlots in close proximity to populated areas throughout the south coast. The people that operate them are interested in the community and doing good forestry. So please, look beyond the tone of this article and the myopic view of the naysayers and come up with your own opinion --- one that's grounded in the reality of the woodlot working forest.

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      Kathy McTaggart

      Jul 26, 2014 at 8:08am

      Those on Gambier who are opposed to these woodlots are very aware of all the arguments in favour of them: only a bit of logging a year, sustainable, yadda yadda yadda.

      These are echoed by our current woodlot owner, in his very recent letter to the North Shore News.

      However, those who were at the meeting on Thursday night in West Van will remember the impassioned statement from those at Camp Fircom. (paraphrased) "You walk through the magical forest of the undeveloped wilderness on NE Gambier and then you hit the woodlot above New Brighton; it breaks your heart."

      Contrary to our woodlot operator's statement in his letter: "The people I see and talk to on Gambier support my woodlot. When I build roads I leave them there for the future. People like it because they can walk through the forest. More people are coming over to the island now because of the openings and the trails the woodlot creates."

      Ha! This woodlot has not created trails. The existing trail markers have been trashed during harvesting, and never replaced. The approach to our main trail to Gambier Lake--yes, once a 1940s logging road, but mossy and corduroyed, and magical--now is a blazing hot, uncomfortable-under-foot, heavy-duty logging road through an incredibly ugly clearcut that has not been reforested.

      More people are NOT coming to the island. All the hikers who come are drastically disappointed by the devastation they see and never come again. I have talked to many hikers who are shocked that this kind of logging is allowed, in 2014.

      And you wonder why most Gambierites, contrary to our woodlot operator's comments, don't want more woodlots on Gambier Island? FLNRO does not adequately oversee what we have already.

      Ted Debiase says:

      "I urge people to find out all the facts when it comes to this area and the proposed woodlot before jumping to conclusions." Gambierites, those who live with this, urge people to come and see what a Gambier woodlot looks like, for themselves, before blindly supporting timber harvesting everywhere!

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