VICTORIA – Citizens concerned about the future of the wild coast are one step closer to stopping Western Forest Products subdivision plans in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. On January 7, 2009 the Capital Regional District committed to appeal the BC Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Land Use Committee and in doing so, ruling that the down zoning bylaws in and around Jordan River, Otter Point, Shirley and Port Renfrew are invalid.

“The court decision found that the process through which the bylaws were approved was flawed, not the bylaws themselves, so we’re happy to see that the CRD will work to keep the progressive land-use bylaws in place,” says Kelsey Singbeil, Outreach Coordinator for the Dogwood Initiative.

The appeal process has the potential to slow Western Forest Products’ development plans for the area, and give local communities much-needed time to complete community planning and visioning documents.  The CRD’s request for a stay of proceedings would keep the bylaws in place until the appeal process is completed.

“By failing to consult with local government and community stakeholders former Forests Minister Rich Coleman landed the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area in a planning nightmare as Official Community Plans, Park Plans, the Regional Growth Strategy and governance issues were in various stages of development,” says local resident, Rosemary Jorna. “The CRD’s bylaws were aimed at slowing proposed subdivision developments along the coast, and the court case highlights the need for more community consultation around planning in the region. We need the space for this area and all the communities hit by the release of the TFL’s  to revisit planning documents and for local governments to initiate inventories of their regions to look at sensitive ecologies, watersheds and future potential for agriculture, parkland, trails and green space. I hope that the CRD’s appeal of the court case will give us that space.”

Since the 2007 announcement of the Tree Farm Licence deletions in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, local communities, recreation-users, surfers, environmentalists, and a huge number of concerned citizens have been working to protect the wild coast from WFP development plans.

The Ministry of Forests has stated that it is committed to working with the Ministries of Community Development, Agriculture and Lands, and Transportation and Infrastructure to ensure local governments are better-positioned to exercise their zoning authority in an appropriate and orderly manner if and when private land deletions occur.

“We are asking Premier Gordon Campbell to fix this problem and step up to protect the public interest and to rescind Rich Coleman’s decision to delete the private lands from the Western Forest Products Tree Farm Licences in the Juan de Fuca area and on Vancouver Island,” says Singbeil. “This latest court case is again evidence that the local communities and local and regional governments were not consulted and have been forced into a very difficult situation.”