Letter: On the Potlatch impact to Forestry

Tuesday, July 5 2016

I’m discouraged to see an “old chestnut” argument re-surfacing during the early stages of the Potlatch Properties density transfer development discussion. The argument basically insists that Forestry-zoned land on Gabriola Island must be retained at all costs. It’s an argument that will be very familiar to all those who followed the Medical Clinic re-zoning debate a few years ago. As a retired professional forester, and a strong advocate for protecting forest land (yes, it’s possible to be both!), I have some thoughts to share on this issue. 

As its name implies, Forestry-zoned land is particularly well-suited for forest harvesting. When done properly, sustainably, and in appropriate locations, I see nothing wrong with cutting trees to provide useful products for society. However, one must understand that on Forestry-zoned land, the mature forest you see today could be gone tomorrow. Sustainable forestry ensures that a logged stand will regenerate to produce a future harvestable forest. However, the immediate aftermath of forest harvesting, and the early stages of forest regeneration, is not everyone’s vision of a “proper” forest, especially when the cut-block is located on a small Gulf island. Also, there is no requirement to ensure forest regeneration on privately owned land. For all these reasons, and more, I really don’t think there is much local support for sizeable logging activity on Gabriola Island, especially on private Forestry-zoned land.  

The Potlach density transfer application proposes that three parcels of Forestry-zoned land (totaling 336 acres) adjacent to the 707 Community Park and Coats Marsh Regional Park be re-zoned to Wilderness/Recreation and donated to the RDN for use as protected parkland. When added to the adjacent 707, the donated lands would create a park slightly larger in size than Vancouver’s Stanley Park. One of the four receiver blocks (76 acres) is also currently zoned Forestry, and would need to be re-zoned in order to accept some of the transferred densities. Only one-half of that property would be developed, the other portion set aside for community parkland.  

Personally, I’d rather sacrifice a sizeable amount of Forestry-zoned land on Gabriola Island for an almost equal amount of forested parkland that would be protected forever from development and harvesting. The density transfer proposal also includes protection of Mallett Creek and dedicated trail links from Taylor Bay Road, Cox Park, and Spruce Avenue to Burnside Drive and Lochinvar Lane, thereby providing direct pedestrian access to the Village area. In my opinion, that’s a pretty nice “win” for Gabriolans!   

There were some valid concerns raised at the recent community information meeting.  However, I don’t think the insistence that all Forestry-zoned land be retained was one of them. 

~ Rob Brockley, RPF (Ret)