Proposed ’emergency’ alternative route nothing but a land grab

We need immediate transparency and full disclosure of all details regarding this project

Proposed ’emergency’ alternative route nothing but a land grab

In January of this year, news broke of provincial government plans to punch an alternate emergency route to the Malahat through protected regional forest lands, primarily the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park. Resistance to this expensive and unnecessary boondoggle from concerned citizens up and down the island has been overwhelming and balloons by the day. From social media blowback and thousands of emails, to phone blitzes and appearances at local council meetings, the message is clear: hands off the forests!

The CRD has heeded this opposition, recognizing that in the midst of a climate emergency and rampant wildfire seasons, we must do all we can to preserve what is left of our regional wilderness areas, so we may pass this legacy on to future generations.

In spite of this, the BC NDP are still bumbling along with studies and reports, remaining tight-lipped about their actual plans, telling us to be patient and to wait for announcements of a roadway project where there has been no consultation with the public or local First Nations. We need immediate transparency and full disclosure of all details regarding this project and who is calling the shots at the table.

They are trying to slip this through as part of their regional transportation plan, but make no mistake — this is not about traffic congestion following a vehicular crash on the Malahat. This is about one giant land grab by developers keen on punching cul-de-sacs through these sacred forests.

One only has to look at the explosive housing surge in the Westhills community of Langford to realize the bulldozers have literally run right up to the boundary of the regional park. Million-dollar lots for sale are popping up like weeds along Goldstream Heights, the favoured starting point of this “emergency” route. It’s easy to see how this slippery slope would quickly lead to demands for a speedier full-time corridor connecting Langford with Shawnigan Lake and points up-island.

I understand frustrations with getting stuck in traffic for hours on end. Nobody wants that, but hey, we live on an island, ferries get cancelled all the time, we learn to deal with certain inconveniences. Does occasional aggravation justify the hundreds of millions wasted or the carnage inflicted in the forests? Massive new highway infrastructure is costed out over decades to justify the expense but we won’t even be moving people around like this in years to come. Public servants must therefore re-focus their efforts on imaginative, environmentally-friendly regional transportation options. No more roads through forests!

If you are unsure about all this, just ask how your grandchildren would respond to destroying forests for another highway. These forests under attack have offered us so much already — from minerals to timber to drinking water. Let’s allow them to now rewild into the old-growth forests of tomorrow.

J. Ocean Dennie

Friends of the Sooke Hills Wilderness

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