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General News · 25th April 2010
Please tell me it's going to rain!

I hear the forecast for Saturday is for a beautiful mid-spring day. Sunny and warm. Your first real weekend in May and where do we want to be?

Manson's Hall!
Manson's Hall, you know the place where one risks being invited to join their board at any moment, at three o'clock in the middle of that gorgeous afternoon, who wants to be there then? How about Smelt Bay or Green Valley? Which overly determined group wanted to have a community meeting then?

You may have heard or read by now about the big community meeting at Manson's Hall on Saturday May 1st at 3:00 pm. You may be asking yourself why would anybody want to be inside on the first Saturday afternoon in May. Well if it isn't raining, many of the people in Manson's Hall Saturday afternoon probably will be asking themselves the same question.

Still we needed to pick some time to meet, and the idea was that weekdays are harder for most people to get free of, and lots of folks are too tired by evening to integrate a lot of information and ask clear questions about it. So, since it was agreed upon by several gardeners that by 3:00 pm, they were probably ready to stop working physically, we decided upon that window for the meeting.

We deeply apologize to everyone who already have previous plans made with the sunshine.

In case you have been off-island or comatose recently, maybe you don't even know why we are all getting together at the hall rather than just heading to the beach. The name of the meeting is An Informational Update on the Status of Crown and Private (please read as Corporate) Forest Lands. While that gives you a clue, it certainly leaves a lot to the imagination too.

So, let's clarify a few things. First of all, nobody wants to try and tell some individual living on ten acres (or whatever) how many of their trees to cut. Indeed, you'll find local loggers at the front of the room expressing their own opinions.

Then too, nobody (well okay maybe a couple of people do - but they aren't that involved) wants to make the entire island into a nature preserve and destroy any chance this island has at having a resource-based economy. If you come, what you'll hear about is a loose alliance of local folks who only agree so much. Some are more ecologically minded and some are more economically focused, but we all have one thing in common. That is this - we are ready to work together to get the big swaths of forest lands on the island finally into community hands.

We trust you know who Island Timberlands is. Yet, just in case you aren't up to speed, here is a brief primer. I.T. is a company that owns almost 10% of the island mostly among the northern wilderness sections.

Two years ago, I.T. met many of you at the hall to share that they wanted to industrially log their land on the island. Two months ago, they crept back on the island to say they wanted to start logging this year. Now they didn't book the hall this time, they sent a last minute email to the Regional Director and met with five islanders in Bertha's coffee shop for 45 minutes. They told those attendees that big public meetings don't work for them very well. Poor guys - all you fierce folk scared them last time.

Of course they want to take the cream. There are pockets of veterans (the ones who hold the original DNA from here) that survived the big fire of 1909 and they want those trees. It may be that, if left to their own conscience, they will take about half of the oldest trees on this island in the next year while destroying primary wildlife corridors, ruining three pristine watersheds with recovering salmon runs, possibly messing up the ground water on the north end of the island for decades and removing enough timber that any thoughts of a community forest must be moved back by fifty years. This is a big deal for the near future of this community.

There has been a team of people working for the last two years on solving this problem. You'll hear about what has been accomplished and what needs to be done. You'll also hear about progress in landing the crown land for a community forest.

We'll ask for your input and your feedback about a wide variety of points. You'll hear about partnerships that may help us and ways to raise money to purchase these lands that generally don't involve raising taxes. You'll also hear an update from the Whaletown Commons folks.

There's a lot that you won't hear there too. Still since you read all the way to the bottom of this piece, allow me to fill you in on a few things that probably won't get mentioned on Saturday. I.T. it turns out is owned by Brookfield Asset Management (a global conglomerate based in Bermuda) and - believe it our not - our friends in the provincial government. Amazingly, the BC government got caught by the Supreme Court of BC supporting I.T.'s case in court without revealing their ownership stake.

They thought they had been sufficiently sneaky to get away with it because they invested via two numbered companies in Manitoba (Manitoba? Of course why not? It's not that they were trying to hide anything!!!). Still, the judge slapped their hands for the omission and the Auditor General is still screaming about these duplicitous dealings. The next election is soon looming... hmmm.

Thank goodness for the internet - where corrupt politicians get caught by simple people doing their homework. Enough said. See you Saturday.