By: Penticton Western News
B.C. municipal leaders have thrown their weight behind a call to halt the logging of Vancouver Island’s remaining publicly owned old-growth forests.
The resolution passed by a significant margin Wednesday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Metchosin Coun. Andy MacKinnon said the aim is to transition to a logging economy based solely on second-growth rather than the continued cutting of remaining old-growth.
“The current model of liquidating the last stands of old growth on this island is not serving anyone well,” Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt said. “There’s less jobs. There’s less protection for drinking watersheds. There’s less biological diversity. And there’s major threats to the tourism sector.”
Vancouver Island has 840,000 hectares of old-growth forest out of 1.9 million hectares of Crown forest, according to government statistics, and only only 313,000 hectares are available for timber harvesting.
Most of the old-growth is shielded in existing parks and protected areas, including the fully protected and specially managed areas of the Clayoquot Sound International Biosphere reserve.
Campbell River Coun. Charlie Cornfield was among the UBCM delegates who opposed the resolution.
“We come from a forest-dependent community,” Cornfield said. “Most on Vancouver Island still are, although some may not realize it.”
He said it was a review of old-growth logging plans would be wise, but called it a regional issue that should not be championed at the provincial level by UBCM.
“The rainforests of this island are an asset of provincial and global significance,” Isitt responded.
He said B.C. politicans would unite behind any equivalent threat to the Rocky Mountains, Great Bear Rainforest, Fraser River or Okanagan Lake “because of their importance to the economy, the ecology and the identity of this province.”
He also noted the B.C. Chamber of Commerce also supported the call for the old-growth ban.
North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring said UBCM delegates should stick to issues that are under municipal jurisdiction such as provision of roads, water and sewer and fire protection.
“We wonder why so many of the resolutions we send to senior levels of government get blown off,” Siebring said. “It’s because we’re not sticking to our knitting.”
He said topics like old-growth logging and the Site C dam project – on which delegates voted to call for a construction halt and a new review by regulators – don’t fit the municipal mandate.
“If you want to set those kinds of policies, get your butt elected to the legislature.”
Other resolutions that passed Wednesday included:
– A call from the Cowichan Valley Regional District for a ban on businesses providing single-use plastic shopping bags;
– A resolution urging B.C. to regulate AirBNB-type online accommodation sellers to ensure a level playing field with conventional operators in the sector;
– A call for the province to reverse its recent policy of downloading the costs of DNA analysis for policing to municipalities;
– A request that any future federal or provincial tax on marijuana be shared with municipalities;
– That B.C. push the RCMP to reinstate the use of auxilliary constables for community events.