Leanne Salter on Englishman River

The NDP Candidate for Parksville-Qualicum in the May 2009 provincial election, Leanne Salter (tel. 250-248-5345), just sent me this statement on logging in the Englishman River watershed:

Under Liberal changes to provincial laws, Island Timberlands appears to have a free pass to exercise authority over regional and local land management control. The Private Managed Forest Land Act (s21) states: "A local government must not adopt a bylaw that would have the effect of restricting, directly or indirectly, a forest management activity". The result is that Island Timberlands is able to ignore the Mayor and Council of the City of Parksville and log on an island in the middle of a salmon spawning stream that is also a vital watershed providing the water that sustains this community. This clearly indicates that the people of BC have no control over our most basic environmental needs.

Englishman River loggingAs one of the group who accompanied Scott Tanner to the small island in the Englishman River on Friday, February 20, 2009, I was shocked to discover the aftermath of logging operations which showed the destruction on the ground and from branches hanging off the old growth trees. The picture speaks for itself.

Local MLA Ron Cantelon advised British Columbians that only two trees hit the ground and that only 21 trees were extracted. This information is erroneous. It is disturbing that the Parksville/Qualicum MLA and our newly appointed Minister of Agriculture so readily accepts misinformation. In his address to the BC Legislature, Ron Cantelon spoke with respect to information he received from Island Timberlands and dismissed critical information brought forward by community advocates, the City of Parksville and MLA Scott Fraser.

I question the current BC government's ability to take responsibility for protecting our most basic environmental needs. We have lost ownership of our vital ecosystems and local community assets to a global asset management corporation operating a foreign-based corporation, Island Timberlands Limited Partnership, registered in Bermuda.

While I was in the destruction zone on the little island in the river, I watched in horror as Island Timberlands landed their helicopter in the Englishman River so that two occupants could disembark and remove the Active Logging sign. This operation demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the wildlife, for the stream that carries salmon fry, for the river that sustains our community, and for the people who live in British Columbia.

We have been assured that Island Timberlands will not be returning to log the river island. However, I saw old growth trees that have been marked for removal. Once we let our guard down, they will be back. There are a few more dollars to be made. It is important to note that Island Timberlands holds 258,000 hectares of land that span from Southern Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Through the Private Managed Forest Land Act, the Liberal government is essentially giving approval for the destruction of our communities, our province and our legacy. On the east coast of Vancouver Island, the loss is priceless. Our rivers and headwaters are vital to our sustainability as communities. We cannot replace the lofty 500-year-old trees or the service they provide in shading the river. We cannot make water flow down a destroyed river bed, and we cannot encourage salmon to swim up a polluted river. Our wilderness, our ecosystem and our wildlife must not be sacrificed for profits.

There are members of our community who are working diligently to keep communities engaged and informed concerning the loss of our forest lands and rivers. Their advocacy and endeavours must be supported because they are working to preserve what is left after decades of clearcutting.

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