A modern way to do land use

Editorial

In 2007, a prominent local conservationist described the need for a land resource management plan as “the single greatest issue facing the Sunshine Coast.”

Almost a dozen years later, a joint land use plan is finally in the works – but the process reflects the changing times. First, the plan will cover only shíshálh Nation territory (the swiya) extending north from Roberts Creek beyond Jervis Inlet. Second, it’s being undertaken on a government-to-government basis by shíshálh and the province.

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The creation of a Land Use Planning Table was one of the components of last October’s historic Foundation Agreement. “We acknowledge,” the two governments say in the document, “that the development of a joint land use plan for the shíshálh swiya would be of mutual benefit, advance reconciliation, advance collaborative management and contribute to predictability for all those living within the shíshálh swiya.”

The planning table will bring together technical people from both sides to review the nation’s existing land use plan and relevant studies, since they represent “substantial information gathering and pre-planning work” that will contribute to the joint plan. The review will identify information gaps in areas such as ecosystem mapping, contaminated site locations, forest allowable cut inventory, mineral and aggregate potential, and foreshore resources.

The goal is to have whatever additional studies are required completed within three years, though some elements of the plan could be adopted before then in stages.

Public and stakeholder engagement will be part of the process, the agreement states.

One of those stakeholders will obviously be the Sunshine Coast Regional District, which recently urged the province to get going on a land use plan for Mt. Elphinstone to address concerns over logging. In a letter included at the back of this Thursday’s planning committee agenda (pages 406 to 408), a Ministry of Forests official politely turns down that request, saying further discussions about the Mt. Elphinstone area will instead be part of the “broader land use planning process” with shíshálh. 

Allan Johnsrude, regional executive director for the South Coast, refers to the new process as “modernized land use planning” and explains it in considerable detail in the letter. The province and shíshálh “have initiated preliminary conversations about the design of this land use planning initiative,” he says, and “a work plan and terms of reference will be developed and shared over the next 12 months.” In the meantime, “the province will continue to employ existing land use and resource management approaches.”

One thing Mr. Johnsrude says about the budding collaboration with shíshálh is that engagement with stakeholders will be “meaningful.”

Let’s hope so, as it would be tragic if the same sort of bad feelings stirred up by the Pender Harbour dock plan were to spread all across the swiya.

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