Niels Schwarz is one of the organizers behind Save Lantzville Forest. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

Lantzville group submits revised proposal to preserve forest

New plan calls for the protection of an area within Woodlot 1475

A group of residents are hoping their latest pitch to the provincial government will result in more environmental protections for a Lantzville forest.

Niels Schwarz, Ted Gullison and Derek Riley, the organizers behind Save Lantzville Forest, recently met with Michelle Stilwell, minister of social development and social innovation, and submitted a revised proposal for Woodlot 1475, a 256-hectare piece of land in upper Lantzville that is selectively logged by licence holder John Gregson.

Under the new proposal, Save Lantzville Forest is calling for the creation of a 60-hectare corridor along Knarston Creek, with 30 hectares dedicated for recreational use. They say the woodlot is home to coastal Douglas fir and coastal western hemlock as well as the northern screech owl and want to see their proposed corridor protected forever.

“We want to set aside a corridor where there will be no clearcutting,” Schwarz said.

The issue over the woodlot has been going on for years now. In 2015, Save Lantzville Forest members attempted to have the woodlot declassified and the forest protected from logging, but were turned down by the provincial government.

“This is disappointing and we shouldn’t have to make this much effort to make the government to see that what they are doing is illogical and also not in the best interest,” he said.

Schwarz said that their issue is not with Gregson because he’s within his legal right to log the property. He said they just want to be able to come to a solution that will save at least part of the woodlot from ever being logged.

“Our issue has never been with him. That’s not our argument. It’s not that he is a terrible logger … that is not the issue,” he said. “The issue is what we are doing is wrong and we need to re-evaluate what we are doing.”

Stillwell told the News Bulletin that she received SFL’s proposal and has forwarded it to Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, who will make a decision on the proposal. She said the woodlot land is Crown land and that the Gregsons would need to be compensated for any land that would be protected.

“To take any wood out of it, the ministry would need to find replacement property so that the Gregsons could make that up,” she said. “There would need to be some negation in place and as a government we would have to be able to provide something in return to the Gregson family.”

Stillwell said she’s supportive of the proposal, but also recognizes the rights of Gregson.

“A lot of woodlot licensees demonstrate a lot of leadership in managing the land for many of its values, whether it is economic or environmental or recreational or educational, ” she said. “Mr. Gregson has won awards for it, but for me it is making sure that the community is well-informed of what goes on the woodlot and ensuring the recreation is accessible for the community. I think the fact that he has already voluntarily set aside land speaks volumes to his dedication to the environment and to supporting what goes on on the woodlot.”

Schwarz said should the government accept the proposal, his group along with the help of local residents and local government would raise half of the funds necessary to compensate Gregson, with the expectation that the province chips in the other half.

“We are willing to work with the government on that in terms of fundraising or whatever it takes,” he said.

No timeframe was provided on when a decision would be made.

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