Clearcut logging has begun on controversy-ridden land beside the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail as developer Ender Ilkay tries to recoup costs after a failed bid to build resort cabins.
“This isn’t my first, second or third choice. Is it disappointing? Yes, but this is the reality of where it has to go,” Ilkay said.
Logging on a 20-hectare patch of second-growth forest is visible from the tourist-oriented Pacific Marine Circle Route highway, but a 50-metre-wide buffer has been left beside the trail.
After four years of acrimonious community meetings and demonstrations, in September 2011, the Capital Regional District rejected Ilkay’s application to build a resort on 236 hectares beside the province’s wilderness hiking trail.
There are no plans to log the other six parcels, but that could happen in the future, Ilkay said. “The intention is to leave a buffer, so this can’t be seen from the trail, but that’s not going to be so easy for future parcels because we own part of the trail on two parcels.”
That could mean the trail would have to be closed for safety reasons during harvesting, he said.
“There comes a time when you have to generate some revenue,” said Ilkay, who waited for 18 months after the CRD rejection, hoping it could go as treaty settlement land to the Pacheedaht First Nation or that the province would buy the land as a park addition.
“The zoning on this is resource extraction, and I tried to zone it away from that. It would have preserved 85 per cent of it,” he said. “Obviously, I’m talking to other levels of government about selling, but there’s no immediate interest.”
Pacheedaht First Nation, a partner in the company logging the trees, hopes senior governments come up with a treaty settlement, so the lands can remain intact, said band manager Dorothy Hunt.
“The federal government is moving slowly, but they have now provided Pacheedaht with funding to get the lands reassessed,” Hunt said. “I sure hope he holds off on logging anything else to give us time to see if we can obtain all or some of the lands.”
If that happens, Pacheedaht could consider building cabins, Hunt said.
“We feel if it’s good enough for Ender Ilkay to build on, it’s probably good enough for us to do something like that,” she said.
Juan de Fuca electoral area director Mike Hicks wants the province to buy the land — an idea previously kicked around without any decision.
“The B.C. government should stop screwing around and just buy it,” Hicks said. “Look at the damage it’s going to do to the B.C. Marine Circle Route and the province’s Juan de Fuca Trail.”
Hicks, who voted against rezoning to follow the community’s wishes, said the logging is not a surprise and he does not blame Ilkay.
“We had a huge, lengthy, ugly process to determine what area residents wanted, and they said they preferred clearcut logging to cabins,” he said.