Letter: Re: riparian area regulation (proposed)

Monday, September 9 2013

I support the proposed RAR and in fact I wish such regulations could have been in place for the Trust Islands before we islanders began to alter and develop our habitat in pursuit of our own goals. As far as I am concerned there are not enough firm regulations to protect what little is left of the natural state of the islands in the Salish Sea. Guidelines only work for those who are inclined to walk gently on the land in the first place.

I keep hearing the complaint that “the goalposts are being moved after I bought my property,” but that is a specious argument if one considers the devastating effects of climate change and the sum of human impacts on our environment. The “goalposts” should have been set more stringently a long time ago. Our presence on the earth does not come with an inalienable right to destroy the natural habitat and build monuments to our brief existence on the planet.

Our desire to clear-cut, pave, scarify, and terraform is in some cases horrifying. Watercourses on Gabriola are small and few, and we should be doing everything we can to protect and enhance them. How can a stream survive when an adjacent property owner has shaved the vegetation right down to the water? Or dumped his refuse over the bank and into the stream because he’s too lazy to build a berm or take it to the appropriate depository?  

Living on this island should require that we be stewards. Instead of defending your “rights,” think about your responsibilities, and consider yourself blessed if you live in a place that has something left of the natural environment worth preserving. Contemplate a future without the alteration of every acre for personal gain.

Lest you think I am an environmentalist at the cost of common sense, let me now implore our local Trust Committee to find a better way to implement, monitor and enforce the proposed regulation. Requiring each landowner to hire an environmental expert (the QEP) to approve  riparian area plans is onerous and likely to result in a rush to develop land before the bylaws are enforced. The proposed bylaws are a boon for QEPs whose fees may be unreasonable. The other side of this coin is that one could hire a friend or relative who might be qualified to give a stamp of approval to plans with dubious merits.  

Why not an incentive for protecting riparian areas on private property? A property tax break similar to NAPTEP for someone who makes an effort to preserve or protect a riparian area would be a welcome addition to this regulation.

Perhaps even more important is that this is a regulation implemented on behalf of the province, and therefore requires across-the-board monitoring and enforcement, with environmental assessments done ideally by provincial staff, and if that is not possible, by Islands Trust staff. This would put all landowners on an even playing field as far as requirements and cost. 

The corollary of an evenly implemented and enforced regulation, one that benefits the environment for all of us, is that it should be shared by all of us: it should be paid for by our tax dollars. That is preferable to having a regulation that people resent and are less likely to comply with. I am more than willing to share the cost of the RAR, hoping that it is done fairly and properly.  

Lastly, and this is one of the benefits of attending a public hearing and listening to others, is that I suspect the mapping for this regulation needs more work. Please do that – if you don’t, the entire regulation is at risk of being ridiculed and criticized to the point of community dissent, and it needs support from all of us.  

~ Susan Yates