There are few places in the world that enjoy a connection to place as passionate and pronounced as the one we benefit from in the CRD. We have the privilege of living in proximity to one of the world’s most iconic forests and spectacular coast lines on an island that is so rich with resources, arable land and renewable energy that it makes us the envy of people across the globe.
This environment creates recreation opportunities such as surfing, hiking and paddling, it provides forestry and ecotourism jobs and it gives clean air and drinkable water to all of us. It is the backbone of our collective identity so effectively; the soil, the water, the air and the trees that are “the land” in this region are a part of us. They are a modern commons that everyone who lives here shares.
It is a blessing for our entire community to be able to draw meaning and strength from such a magnificent environment.
Ironically, the magnificence of this commons is also its biggest threat. Real estate speculators from across North America are ogling our land with dollar signs in their eyes and there is significant financial and political interest in developing subdivisions and condominium projects throughout the Juan de Fuca region. As this pressure for growth intensifies our community is approaching a crossroads in managing its development.
It is an undeniable reality that large corporate land owners and politicians are maneuvering to promote urban sprawl in the Juan de Fuca region. This was the case in 2007 when the provincial government privatized 23 000 ha of land in the TFL scandal. It was the motivation behind the Minister of Community and Rural Development’s refusal to sign democratically created land use bylaws in 2008. It lead Western Forest Products to sue the CRD for their strict zoning rules and it was probably the reason why CRD planners were pressured into suggesting that our forests be carved into 2 ha lots (later overturned by an enormous wave of public feedback).
On a piecemeal basis none of the proposals we have seen so far look very dangerous. A new road here and a resort there won’t destroy our community by themselves, but what is being suggested for this region is much more significant than a couple of little construction projects. In the quiet conversations that take place outside boardrooms and in between meetings the region’s power brokers are discussing how to change Community Plans to facilitate urban sprawl, they are making plans to elect development friendly politicians and are even plotting to incorporate municipalities from Sooke to Port Renfrew under a banner of economic growth. These plans betray the same agenda of reckless development that we see the results of in places like Surrey, Burnaby and Langford. They create impressive profits for a handful of investors, but the long term costs to our water supply, climate and economy are dangerously high. Moreover, transforming our environment threatens to irreparably change the collective identity of our community.
Most people on Vancouver Island enjoy a lifestyle that is based on rural values and appreciation for nature. The stunning environment on our doorsteps shapes how we relate to the world and to each other. Bulldozing the backdrop of our lives for profitable subdivisions and Walmarts will change that lifestyle forever and defeat the very reason that most of us have chosen to live here.
The trees, air, water and soil in the Juan de Fuca region are for all of us to share, not for one person to profit from. Choices being made now about how our land is used will determine what kind of home we give to our children and collectively we need to remember that our connection to the land is what makes this such a special place to live.