A push to protect a Lantzville forest is ramping up, with organizers arguing there’s at-risk species and high recreational value.
“Can you imagine if Stanley Park was being logged?” asked Ted Gullison, biologist and concerned resident behind the Save Lantzville Forest effort. “It wouldn’t really matter if they were doing responsible logging, it just doesn’t make any sense.
“It’s the same thing here.”
Woodlot 1475 is at the heart of the fight, an approximate 256-hectare swath in upper Lantzville that’s 96 per cent Crown land.
Save Lantzville Forest campaigners are petitioning to change the designation of the woodlot from a timber production forest to permanently protected area, on the condition the woodlot licensee is compensated, possibly with a swap in timber rights on other Crown land, if government allows third parties to purchase and retire the tenure of the woodlot. Gullison said more than 2,000 signatures have been collected so far. There’s also political support from Lantzville council and Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog, who supports protecting the woodlot as long as the current operator is compensated.
The woodlot, which can be accessed off of Sywash Ridge Road, is a maze of bridges and trails and home to three amphibian species considered at risk by the province, including the red-legged frog, a citizen-commissioned report by E. Wind Consulting shows. Other provincially listed species like the western screech owl have also been noted in the area and the province reports that 25 per cent of the woodlot is coastal Douglas fir, which it considers an ecosystem at risk.
Woodlot guidelines, however, are not specific to operating in an endangered forest, says Gullison, who along with resident Niels Schwarz points to the area’s high recreational and environmental values.
An end to logging would allow the area to be managed for recreation and the mature forest to get older, which is better for biodiversity and a higher-quality recreation experience, Gullison said.
But there’s no easy solution, according to Michelle Stilwell, Parksville-Qualicum MLA, who notes two sides including licence-holder John Gregson.
“The important thing we have to understand is as much as Save Lantzville Forest wants to see it protected, there are also those individuals who don’t oppose the woodlot and it’s important to acknowledge the Gregsons have a backing by many of their neighbours,” said Stilwell who says she wants to make sure both sides have equal voice.
She also said it’s a working forest and it’s a myth that it is being clearcut or that people will lose trail access.
Lantzville council met with Stilwell and B.C. Forests Minister Steve Thomson in November, and Stilwell said it was asked whether the ministry would consider cancelling the requirement to remove timber if the woodlot licence was acquired by the community but “that’s not something within the minister’s abilities because the purpose of the woodlot is to manage and harvest timber as well as manage for the other values as well.”
She sees the ability to turn the woodlot into protected area as being between woodlot-licence holder and Save Lantzville Forest and that the group should make an offer. Government also has to know what’s on the table.
Gullison asks if the forestry minister can’t cancel the requirement to remove timber, who can? Government is being “way too passive” on this, he said.
Gregson has held the licence for 10 years and said his company has been doing a good job of managing it and would like to continue to do so. He’s possibly open to compensation and acquirement of the licence but can’t comment further until there’s a proposal.