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General News · 30th April 2010
Carrie Saxifrage
Part 1.
A New Forestry Policy

We have all too many opportunities to react and respond to ecologically destructive practices on private land. But zoning is one of our rare opportunities for prevention. It gives the community legal power over private land. The Official Community Plan shapes land use on Cortes Island and is our surest tool for influencing activities on the island’s industrial forest lands.

The current OCP Forestry Policy 6.6 states that the minimum lot size of a forest zoned parcel shall not be less than 40 hectares (98.9 acres). The minimum parcel size of F1 zoning represents a hard-fought and very innovative victory by Cortes Islanders. It is our bulwark against the conversion of forestlands to subdivisions by timber companies that is occurring all over Vancouver Island.

Island Timberlands has said they will be watching the OCP process very carefully. If we allow logging to precede community planning even once, we will have lost the ability to stop developers from turning industrial forest lands into subdivisions. We need to hold firm to the principle of “no logging before rezoning.” We have much at stake and an opportunity, through the OCP, to emphasize the importance of the current minimum lot sizes for forest parcels.

We could do this by formalizing the petition signed by 340 islanders into a forestry policy in the new OCP. The petition states:

Whereas maintaining forest land is vital for the cultures, environment,
economy and social fabric of Cortes Island.

We the undersigned will oppose any rezoning of forest land (F1 or F2) on Cortes Island in which significant logging has occurred in recent years.

The policy could state:

Owners of forested property in the Forestry land use designation should be discouraged from applying for a rezone of land in which significant logging has occurred in recent years.

This policy will help developers. It puts them on notice of the community’s expectation that only rezone applications that occur before a tree is cut have a possibility of success. It will encourage the model of Renewal Land Company’s Siskin Lane for which plans were completed and approved by the community before any trees fell. It will discourage situations like the lands at the corner of Sutil Point and Bartholemew Roads. The developer was frustrated by the community’s refusal to accept a rezone of logged lands. The community was frustrated by being asked to substantially increase a developer’s land value and receive no ecological protections for treasured forests in return.

The OCP is a terrific opportunity to put developers on notice that standing forests are a necessary ingredient to any rezone application.

Coming Next: Part 2: Special Development Permit Areas