VICTORIA – Communities, First Nations, surfers, and environmentalists refuse to admit defeat in the face of a Court of Appeal’s decision not to uphold the CRD’s progressive bylaws on former Tree Farm License lands in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.
“Western Forest Products has continually shown disregard for the will of the affected communities. Although the court decided the CRD process was flawed it does not lessen the communities’ resolve to maintain this area as Forest Resource Land and protect the character of the wild coast,” said Gordon O’Connor, Forest Campaigner for the Dogwood Initiative. “The province must live up to their promise to listen to the community.”
On October 15th and 16th, 2008, Western Forest Products and members of the Association of BC Landowners challenged the process by which the CRD implemented progressive zoning on forest lands in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. The CRD zoning restricted development on these lands.
The bylaws were passed due to community outrage over a government decision to allow Western Forest Products to sell vast tracks of forest land to developers. On December 23, 2008 Judge Metzger squashed the bylaws, deeming the decision making structures cost-sharing agreement illegal. The CRD appealed the decision, and today the court upheld Metzger’s ruling.
“This is a huge setback; yet another in a series of disturbing decisions. Since the announcement of Western Forest Products’ Tree Farm Licence deletions in January 2007, there has been repeated undermining of community planning, running counter to the public interest and to people’s hopes for this area. Unfortunately, people are forced to react out of fear of losing what is most important to them, and anger that they have not been part of the decision making process. This latest decision means that our communities and the whole south Island stand to lose even more. We will not stop pressing government at all levels to take the needs and concerns of our communities into consideration when decisions of such magnitude are being made,” stated Terri Alcock, community resident and former representative of Shirley/Jordan River on the Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee.
“This is certainly a step backwards for this area and everyone who cares about the future of our wild coast. The court has tied the hands of the CRD, it is now up to the provincial government whose earlier decision started this mess, to step in and create space for legitimate broad community consultation and accommodation” stated O’Connor. “It is time for them to make good on the promise that the ultimate fate of these lands would lie with communities.”
Under the old guidelines, Western Forest Products only had until April 23rd, 2009 to have their subdivisions approved. This decision extends that period indefinitely.