Mayors and councillors from across the province are calling for a halt to logging of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.
On Wednesday, delegates to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention endorsed a resolution put forward by Metchosin and championed by Metchosin Coun. Andy MacKinnon, a retired forest ecologist, calling for protection of the Island’s old growth from logging.
MacKinnon noted Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests are a limited resource. He said the province “routinely inflates” the amount of old growth remaining on the Island and the amount that is protected.
“On productive forest land base, we’re down to about six per cent old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island and much less than one per cent on southeastern Vancouver Island.
“We’re also logging more than about 9,000 hectares of old-growth forest on Vancouver Island a year,” MacKinnon said.
He said the resolution was not calling for an end to logging on Vancouver Island.
“The day will come when we stop logging old growth on Vancouver Island and run our industry entirely on second growth. This resolution simply seeks that that comes sooner rather than later,” he said.
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt also urged delegates to support the resolution.
“The rainforests of the Island are an asset of provincial and global significance,” Isitt said.
“I think if the issue in front of us was the Rocky Mountains, the Great Bear Rainforest or the Peace River or Okanagan Lake or the Fraser River, we would be uniting to defend those assets because of their importance to the economy, ecology and identity of this province,” Isitt said to applause.
Isitt said liquidation of the Island’s old growth is not serving anyone well. “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.”
The motion was applauded by the Wilderness Committee, which rallied outside the convention Tuesday to highlight the public desire for old-growth protection.
Metchosin’s motion was returned to the UBCM’s resolutions list after initially being removed. MacKinnon and other municipal leaders reversed the removal, and about 80 per cent of delegates from across the province voted in favour of the motion.
Isitt noted that the B.C. Chamber of Commerce has also called for the protection of old growth.
“That’s coming from communities like Port Renfrew, Ucluelet and communities all the way around the Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait who recognize they can generate substantially more jobs and dollars from tourism than from liquidating the asset,” Isitt said.
But not everyone was in support. Campbell River Coun. Charlie Cornfield, also a retired forester, noted the resolution called for a complete halt to old-growth logging. He supported the UBCM resolution committee’s position that the issue is a regional one and the resolution be sent back to the regional area committee for review.
“I think the review that looks at the economic impact of this resolution is absolutely essential,” he said. “We come from a forest-dependent community. Most of the communities on Vancouver Island still are, even though some may not realize it. They are dependent on that forest economy to provide the social, to provide the environmental benefits.”
“It’s about balancing.”
North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring said the delegates “should stick to their knitting.”
“We are elected to look after roads, water, sewer and fire protection. This isn’t our bailiwick,” Siebring said. “We wonder why so many of the resolutions that we send to senior levels of government get blown off. It’s because we’re not sticking to our knitting, and I would strongly recommend that we stick to our knitting, that being municipal governance. This isn’t municipal governance,” he said.
The UBCM will now urge the provincial government to take action to protect remaining old-growth forests.