Only a few months ago the Jordan River forest lands issue was quiet in the media.
It seemed that people had glazed over on the issue. The status of the CRD zoning bylaws were uncertain until the end of June when the BC Court of Appeal decision is expected.These bylaw amendments were passed to slow down development on recently privatized forest lands in the Juan de Fuca region, but were challenged by Western Forest Products (WFP) in the Fall of 2008. WFP won the Supreme Court casein December and the CRD is now appealing that decision.
But, as the provincial elections draw closer, Jordan River land-use issues have once again come into focus. The problems, which stem from the Liberal government’s January 2007 decision to privatize 28,000 ha of publicly managed forest lands, have not gone away. The outrage of the communities, the frustration of recreation users, and other stakeholders remains. There have been minor victories and minor set backs, but absolutely no resolution.
About a month and a half ago, the Ministers of Forests andCommunity Services decided to finally respond to the requests of the Jordan River Steering Committee and Dogwood Initiative to meet with us on the issue. Forest Minister Pat Bell later termed the meetings ‘exploratory’ conversations.
If the BC Liberals win the election there is an opportunity for the next government to recognize the mistakes made and work with the regional communities towards a solution. However, the preliminary conversations to-date have not lead to any announcement or promises for the area.
Recently the NDP made an announcement that if they win the election they will acquire 12,000ha of land from Western Forest Products. This includes almost all of the lands that were taken out of previous Tree FarmLicence 25. If elected, the NDP has promised to split up the lands into protected areas, forestry lands, lands to settle First Nation’s claims (among other uses) compatible with the rural and forest character of the area. The announcement was made at the campaign office of John Horgan, who continues to speak out on this issue.
On April 10th the front page story of the TC certainly helped raise the public profile of the controversy to the forefront of people’s minds. Since then, print, radio andTV stories have pinned the Juan de Fuca lands as an election issue.
Development of these lands will not just impact the communities surrounding them, but the entire CRD and beyond. This is an area beloved by many, a place rich with West Coast character, now at risk of being changed forever.
When you go to the polls next Tuesday remember that the fate of the Juan de Fuca lands is not just a local issue. Do you know what your choice candidate is willing to do to rectify this situation?
On May 12th vote for the future of forests on our coast!