Lantzville councillors are calling on the provincial government to call a halt to any future logging activities within a portion of a local woodlot.
During a council meeting on Monday, Lantzville councillors unanimously voted in favour of sending a letter to Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, asking the province to impose a moratorium on logging in within an a proposed protective corridor within Woodlot 1475. Council’s letter will also ask Donaldson to meet with councillors, Snaw-Naw-As chief and council, members of Save Lantzville Forest and John Gregson, the licence holder for Woodlot 1475, in order to discuss a proposed 60-hectare protective corridor within the woodlot.
For years, a local group known as Save Lantzville Forest has been fighting to protect 256 hectares of forest in upper Lantzville that is 96 per cent Crown land, arguing that the woodlot is home to a coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, at-risk species, and has high recreational value for the community.
As the licence holder, Gregson, who has won an award for management of the woodlot, has every right to selectively log the entire area.
After various efforts failed, including trying to get various levels of government to change the woodlot’s designation to a permanently protected area, Save Lantzville Forest proposed the creation of a 60-hectare corridor within the woodlot along Knarston Creek, with 30 hectares dedicated for recreational use in exchange for fair financial compensation to Gregson, last year. That proposal, which had been submitted to MLA Michelle Stilwell, who was then the minister of social development and social innovation, received support from councillors last year.
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Coun. Mark Swain, who made the motion, told councillors the district has heard nothing from Donaldson in regards to the woodlot and that it is time to have a meeting with all interested parties in an effort to move the issue forward.
“At some point we have to get all interested parties into the same room to discuss this, otherwise it is just going to get kicked down the road.”
Coun. Denise Haime said while she supports the motion, the former and current provincial governments have expressed zero support for the proposal, adding that her concern lies with tree cutting that is taking place within other areas of the community. She said the response from the government came in December but has never been made public, but should be.
“We know we’ve got it, but I don’t know if the residents realize we’ve got it, so I think we need to publish that so they are aware of what came back from the ministry,” she said.
Coun. Will Geselbracht said he felt that there is no mechinsim to sort the issues out and to allow the community to have a voice.
“If the community really wants to preserve trails, especially the Knarston creak … this would be a good idea to bring the government to task and have a little sit down,” he said.
Mayor Colin Haime said in his experience, other than a commitment from the minister to have a meeting, very little actually occurs following a meeting. He said, even though they’ve already had meetings with them, it might be better to hold discussions with the Snaw-Naw-As first.
“Why don’t we just start with meeting with Nanoose First Nation chief and council,” he said. “Or even just a meeting with the players, separate of the minister, and come up with a community-based plan … as to how to kind of move forward with this.”
Swain said while he didn’t disagree with the mayor’s comments, he felt there was a sense of urgency.
“This is our opportunity to actually do something,” he said.