The prospect of two new woodlots on Gambier Island has left a few North Shore cottage owners with an axe to grind.
Emotions were at a “boiling-over point” at an information meeting hosted by the Ministry of Forests last Thursday night (July 24) in West Vancouver, said Peter Snell, Gambier Island Conservancy director.
Located at the north end of Gambier, the proposed woodlots comprise 1,326 hectares and would likely produce approximately 6,000 cubic metres of chopped cedar, Douglas fir and hemlock each year. But many North Shore cottage owners and boaters aren’t pleased with the plan, which could squeeze out hiking trails and push a log dump onto Douglas Bay, according to Burrard Yacht Club past commodore Lea Bancroft.
“It’s not as if we can drive five miles the other way,” he said. “We’re no longer dealing with a wilderness area that’s out in the middle of nowhere. This is right in people’s backyards.”
Despite owning 15 acres near the proposed woodlots, the Burrard Yacht Club had no hint there might be logging in the area until hearing about the plan “through the grapevine” this spring, Bancroft said.
The Ministry of Forests has received bids on the woodlots ranging up to $488,000, but recently delayed awarding them.
That decision followed the threat of legal action from the Gambier Island Conservancy — a group opposed to the Ministry’s plans — on the grounds the public wasn’t properly consulted.
The delay was intended to allay confusion and help concerned residents “better understand the woodlot process,” according to assistant Deputy Minister of Forests Craig Sutherland.
That explanation didn’t sit well with Snell.
“We know what woodlots are,” he said. “What we don’t know is why [the Ministry of Forests] failed to talk to the community.”
The ministry has tunnel vision, according to Snell.
“There’s quite a lot of economic activity that relates to the island that has not been looked at by the ministry because they’ve had a logging-first agenda,” Snell said.
But Gambier Island woodlot owner Bill Errico said there’s nothing to fear from woodlots.
“Some people look at it as if you’re going to strip everything … but that’s not a fact,” he said, adding the areas will be logged over decades, allowing new trees to sprout. Based on the annual allowable cut, the woodlot should be sustainable for 250 years, according to a report from the Sunshine Coast Forest District.
The roads in Errico’s woodlot have evolved into hiking trails enjoyed by the community, he said.
“I’ve never had anybody complain,” he said.
But the state of Errico’s woodlot is a major reason for the concerns over new woodlots, according to Snell.
“The hiking trails have been decimated by the logging activities to the point where summer camps will no longer go through the woodlot because of the concerns about safety,” Snell said. “It’s quite different hiking through an old growth forest versus hiking through a tree farm.”
The woodlots are also far too close to Gambier Lake, according to Snell.
“All the trails that snake through the forest to get to the lake are right in the direct path of where these woodlots would be,” Snell said.
That lake is critical for many summer campers who hike and pitch tents alongside the water, noted Bancroft.
“Is that going to be lost?” he asked.
The woodlots will likely have a negligible impact on B.C.’s economy, according to Bancroft.
“The economic value that the taxpayers of British Columbia are actually going to get out of the development of those two woodlots is marginal or negative,” Bancroft said.
Snell said the Gambier Island Conservancy hasn’t ruled out further legal action, and called for more community input prior to a contract being awarded.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” he said.
If awarded, the woodlot term would likely be 20 years.
© Coast Reporter