Trust Council report

Susan Yates

Special to the Sounder

Wednesday, April 3 2019

The 3-day March Council for Islands Trust opened on Gabriola with a gracious introduction to Gabriola Island and the Haven, by Local Trustee Kees Langereis, and a sincere acknowledgment by Local Trustee Scott Colbourne of our privilege to meet on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw people.

Trust Council meets on Gabriola only once every couple of years, so it’s a pleasure to attend this important local government meeting so close to home. My last attendance as an observer was on Saturna Island, and the next one will be on Galiano.

The Islands Roundtable, where the Trustees share their Islands’ recent events with Council, is definitely worth watching. Discussions about BC Ferries, Highways, marine conservation, the alarming effects of climate change, forestry disasters (small-scale, but they are small islands), and freighter anchorage woes, are all cause for concern. But it is heartening to see the solidarity among 26 Trustees facing such common obstacles and goals.

Occasionally a serious issue that is brought up at one Council will be solved before the next quarterly meeting, and that is always cause for celebration. Small victories mean a lot to local governments, and one accomplishment may lead to another, especially if it can be shared throughout the Trust Area. Hornby Island celebrated its 3rd annual HerringFest, and the Trustees were happy to announce that finally after many meetings, Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) representatives are beginning to make the crucial connection (departmentally) between herring, chinook salmon, and orcas.

Hornby is currently working on capacity studies (water, waste, visitors, residents) for their island,which will help to inform their next official community plan and land use bylaw updates. Mayne Island completed a 10-year commercial area study (careful planning that includes everyone is bound to be slow) and the Trustees were pleased to say that indigenous hunters will be using bow and arrow to hunt the exploding feral fallow deer population that has plagued the island for many years.

Bowen Island – the only Trust Islands that is also a municipality (yes, there are problems) is doing a very interesting study on a proposed tramway or funicular railway to deal with ferry and village congestion. Their public wharf is still not usable after the Big Storm of December 20; it’s reassuring to know that other islands have such problems (Mayne Island has a big problem with a derelict dock).

Lasqueti, on the other hand has a dock that is being fixed! And their islanders enjoyed the forage fish workshop that has been making the rounds of coastal communities, giving residents a much better understanding of how precious and valuable the tidal life of our foreshores is.

Denman recently had their one water delivery company shut down due to extreme water shortage, which has also affected 2 affordable housing applications in process. 

Climate change is upon us, and the Islands Trust must and will take action in its near and future deliberations.

Salt Spring Trustees echoed the climate change emergency, with the addition of its effect on the Coastal Douglas Fir endangered forests on most of the Trust Islands. Brutal logging operations (clear-cutting) of private managed forest land (PMFL) on Salt Spring and other islands is also causing much grief among residents. The squirrels and nuthatches are not happy either.

Thetis Island had a major celebration after finding salmon in a local stream, after 10 years of trying to protect this important riparian area. And more to celebrate at the very end of Council on Thursday when archaeological remains from a Penelakut burial ground were returned after being hauled away by ‘authorities’ when they were found washed onto the shoreline after the Big Storm (Dec 20/18).

Thetis Island is using Development Permit Areas (DPAs) to good effect in order to preserve sensitive ecosystems and areas on their island. DPAs are one of the very few tools the Trust can use to support its ‘preserve and protect’ mandate.

Thetis is working alongside Denman and Hornby to incorporate their local First Nations in projects of various kinds, and their success is one more meaningful step to true Reconciliation.

North and South Pender are dealing with the ever-increasing pressure of finding a balance between protecting the environment and quiet residential areas while allowing long-time commercial and industrial operations, damaging and destructive to the land and foreshore, to continue. Zoning and regulations according to ‘what’s been there for a long time’ is a problem in most of the Trust Area.

South Pender has a problem with rats (perhaps the only island to come right out and say this?) and their Trustee described the predation on ground-nesting birds and even birds like swallows, wrens, and flycatchers that nest in corners and cross-beams of buildings (rats are excellent climbers).

On a happier note, all of the derelict vessels around South Pender will be gone by spring (thanks in good part to former Chair of the Islands Trust Sheila Malcolmson). Gambier and Keats in Howe Sound are in the Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone of the Islands Trust Area, and their forests are also suffering from climate change. As one of their Trustees said, ‘for a rainforest, we are so dry right now – hardly any rain since the fall.’

Gambier Island is finalizing its wetland ecosystem and riparian area planning, and their Trustee was very happy to report on the newly-discovered 8 glass sponge reefs (to be protected) in Howe Sound.

The wolves on Gambier may be of assistance in the rat problem on South Pender, but how to not further mess up the ecosystem if such a mission is to be considered?? Because of the number of private docks on Keats Island, foreshore protection is urgent, but also difficult – who wants to limit, reduce the size of, or share their dock in order to prevent further degradation of the tidal zone? No easy answers, and a trouble-filled project for the Trustees.

Sunny Saturna is another dry island, and they have been working on rainwater catchment for a long time. The Capital Regional District is helping Saturna with funding for solar energy, which will serve them well long in to the future.

Galiano Island is under siege from rampant logging (more razing, let’s not mince words) in the PMFL, and doing their best to preserve what they can (they are champions in this regard, if you know of Galiano Conservancy’s work). DPAs don’t seem to be working; they must be enforced to be effective.

And finally, Gabriola’s two Trustees are working to foster good relations with the 8 First Nations whose territories connect in different ways with the Gabriola Trust Area. Establishing an Ecological Protection Zone on Gabriola is also a priority, as is working with other agencies on affordable housing.

Next Trust Council will be on Galiano Island, where all of the work done on Gabriola will continue on Galiano. And we on Gabriola should be very proud of our two Local Trustees, who do a fine job of contributing to Council decisions and work.