OUR VIEW: Provincial oversight missing in Cortes logging dispute

The current impasse over logging on private land on Cortes Island is unique by B.C. standards. In a province where wars in the woods have often been bitterly waged, the Cortes standoff stands apart.

Cortes environmentalists and Island Timberlands have been debating the company’s logging plans for about four years without coming to serious blows. The islanders are not trying to ban logging altogether, they are asking for Timberlands to adopt an ecosystem-based, selective logging harvesting plan that spares old growth.

And, Timberlands, which is owned by Wall Street giant Brookfield Asset Management, has exercised a measure of restraint and has not immediately sought an injunction to gain access to the property.

As encouraging as this is, there is something glaringly absent in the debate – provincial government stewardship. There can be no lasting resolution of the Cortes Island conflict unless it can be demonstrated that logging on the company’s private land is subject to diligent regulatory oversight. Private land logging companies claim they are subject to more than 30 provincial acts and regulations.

But, the environmentalists counter-claim that the industry uses a model of professional reliance which means that there is no real government oversight and private land foresters ultimately get to decide what constitutes compliance.

Further complicating the Cortes Island impasse are global investment forces over which Cortes has no control. China Investment Corp.(CIC), the state-owned investment arm of the People’s Republic of China, is interested in purchasing a significant percentage of Island Timberlands. CIC is an investment powerhouse with approximately $200 billion of China’s foreign exchange reserves to play with.

The notion that the fate of old growth stands on tiny Cortes Island will be debated and determined in part by faceless Communist Party plutocrats in Beijing is kind of scary. The scenario is made more scary by the fact that our provincial government seems to have abandoned all caring for commercial logging on private land.




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