Forest minister won’t cancel requirement to harvest at Lantzville woodlot

NANAIMO – A new proposal from those behind the Save Lantzville Forest effort will look at partial protection of the woodlot.

Residents fighting to save Lantzville forest are looking at partial protection for an active woodlot as B.C.’s forest minister makes it clear he won’t end timber harvests.

Organizers of Save Lantzville Forest, a grassroots group, are working on a new proposal to protect Woodlot 1475, a 256-hectare property in upper Lantzville, which is 96 per cent Crown-owned.

The District of Lantzville recently released a letter from B.C. Forest Minister Steve Thomson which shows the community could request a reduction in the annual allowable cut of Woodlot 1475 if it purchased the licence, but the minister is not able to consider canceling requirements to remove timber all together. The purpose of the lot is to manage and harvest timber “as well as manage for other values,” he wrote.

Thomson also reiterated his support for the woodlot program and the challenges tied to an alternative use of the area, which includes finding replacement lands for the current licensee when Crown land is “very constrained” on southeast Vancouver Island.

It’s a response to a meeting held in November between Thomson, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell and Lantzville council on the woodlot, where local politicians expressed concern about watershed health and interest in alternative management opportunities for the area, including designation of the woodlot as park.

Lantzville council had previously agreed to support the community desire to protect the lot, which organizers of Save Lantzville Forest have argued has recreational values and species at risk.

Mayor Colin Haime called the government’s response a “little disappointing” and said he hoped if a community initiative was put forward, the minister would be open to considering other uses for the property.

Coun. Will Geselbracht said the letter is the minister’s position and he still supports the Save Lantzville Forest group. An issue council may need to look at in the future is if the woodlot should become a “designated community watershed,” pursuant to the Forest and Range Practices Act, he said.

Ted Gullison, one of the residents behind Save Lantzville Forest, said the minister’s response is another example of how it’s prioritizing business over environmental issues and community concerns. Even if they fully compensated the logger, “government will force us to log and force us to continue to log red-listed and endangered ecosystems,” he said, adding he finds it disheartening it’s up to the community to lead the process to do responsible forestry.

He said a proposal is now being worked on to determine how much it would affect the profitability of the forest for the licensee if partial protection was implemented.