The minister in charge of forests is open to meeting with Lantzville councillors to discuss issues surrounding a woodlot within the community. NEWS BULLETIN file

Provincial forests minister open to meeting about Lantzville woodlot

Minister says province recently issued alternative proposal for Woodlot 1475

The minister in charge of forests is open to meeting with Lantzville councillors to discuss issues surrounding a woodlot within the community.

Last month, Lantzville councillors voted in favour of sending a letter to Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, requesting an in-person meeting with him to discuss a proposed 60-hectare protective corridor within Woodlot 1475. The letter also requested a moratorium on logging within the woodlot and that the meeting include Snaw-Naw-As chief and council, members of Save Lantzville Forest, a citizen group calling for protection of the woodlot, and John Gregson, the woodlot’s licence holder.

Following a tour Coastland Wood Industries in Nanaimo on Wednesday morning, Donaldson said he had received and read a letter from the district and would be happy to meet with Lantzville councillors to discuss a protective corridor within Woodlot 1475.

“Definitely, I am willing to meet with Lantzville, or any community that has concerns,” he said.

Save Lantzville Forest has been calling for the protection of a 256-hectare patch of forest in upper Lantzville that is 96 per cent Crown land. The group has undertaken numerous scientific studies and argue that the woodlot must be protected because it is home to a coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, numerous at-risk species and provides recreational value to the community.

After failing to protect the entire woodlot, Save Lantzville Forests came up with a proposal last year that called for the protection of a corridor within the woodlot along Knarston Creek. The proposal called for 30 hectares to be dedicated for recreational use in exchange for fair financial compensation to Gregson. However, that proposal was rejected by the former Liberal government and was rejected again in December by the current government.

Donaldson said that the government recently came up with a compromise with Gregson in response to the proposal pitched by Save Lantzville Forests. He said he believed specific details about the compromise were released to the public, adding that the ministry will provide details about the proposal.

“It’s an operating woodlot and that is the licensed purpose for that forest, but, as I’ve said, we have come to a compromise with the woodlot owner and he has been very co-operative and I approved that compromise,” he said. “I think it will help satisfy some of the concerns of the local citizens, who will be able to access the woodlot.”

Donaldson said his government will not support a moratorium on logging within the woodlot because the woodlot program specifically requires that the forest be logged. He said the compromise includes an protection for an area around the trail that “won’t be logged in the same way” that the rest of the woodlot would be logged, but did not elaborate further.

“The decision we came to was to allow access to the public, to the woodlot, for a trail corridor that is most heavily used,” he said.

Michelle Stillwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, whose riding includes Lantzville, told the News Bulletin in an e-mailed statement hours before Donaldson’s visit, that the ministry did offer an alternative solution within the Knarston Creek Forrest corridor that has never been made public.

“he current proposal has been rejected by two governments now. However, while the ministry has been unable to support the entire proposal, it is my understanding the ministry did offer an alternative solution within the Knarston Creek Forrest corridor, but this information has not been made public from the recipients of the ministry letters,” Stilwell said in an e-mail.

Stillwell, a Liberal MLA who is now an opposition member, said she continues support both the woodlot license owner and the community and hopes a resolution that satisfies both sides can be reached.

“I will continue to support my constituents on both sides of the issue in any way I can,” she said.

It’s unclear when details of the compromise will be released or provided to the News Bulletin.

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