Wednesday, May 29, 2024
May 29, 2024

Islands Trust Council abandons attempt to get tree-cutting authority from province

Islands Trust Council (ITC) has voted to abandon earlier efforts seeking provincial authority to let individual islands enact tree-cutting bylaws. 

The majority action, from a motion brought by Salt Spring Island trustee Jamie Harris, directs ITC chair Peter Luckham to “promptly inform the province that it no longer wishes to proceed” — and directs staff to remove the task from ITC’s follow-up action list altogether. 

The move took place Thursday, March 9, and is a wholesale reversal of the previous council’s initiative, which began in late 2020 when it voted to request the province “enhance the Trust’s jurisdiction over tree-cutting bylaws to make its jurisdiction equal to that of municipalities” under Section 8 of the Community Charter. The response from the province has been arguably slow, and perhaps unenthusiastic; ITC chair Peter Luckham noted little movement on the topic since the Trust first reached out.  

“This is a difficult ask,” said Luckham, a Thetis Island trustee. “Indeed, the province has asked for a lot of clarity.”  

Pace notwithstanding, a concern over the potential for the Islands Trust being granted authority to regulate tree cutting was central to Harris’ candidacy — and has been a steady point of focus for him during his time in office.  

“It’s one of the reasons I’m sitting here today,” said Harris, a B.C. certified tree faller. “On Salt Spring, we’re talking about thousands of people’s livelihoods that were, you know, made to feel unsecure.”  

Although 2021 Statistics Canada census for Salt Spring Island showed just 320 members of the labour force classified themselves as working in the “agriculture, forestry, fishing [or] hunting” industries, Harris was likely including the downstream effects on construction or other activities. And however large the number of islanders impacted, trustees agreed they had heard much from their communities on both sides of the issue. North Pender trustee Deb Morrison admitted to being torn. 

“The issue for us is that we are getting a lot of cutting on private land, and nobody seems to have jurisdiction over that, or a way to regulate it,” said Morrison. “I am swayed by what you say, [but] I’m going to vote against.” 

“I recognize some of the concerns that the Salt Spring trustee has about his island,” said Gambier Island trustee Kate-Louise Stamford, “but this is encompassing all the islands.” 

“I have been listening for decades,” said Gabriola trustee Susan Yates, “not just years, decades — to people on my island and other islands begging for the Trust to find some tools to support the [Islands Trust preserve and protect] mandate. This is one little tool that would.” 

Also arguing against the motion, Bowen Island trustee Sue Ellen Fast told fellow trustees that tree-cutting bylaws can be “tailored to the need” of a community, and that each island could choose for themselves once the authority had been granted.  

“You can have a tree cutting bylaw for just a little area, you can have one that says just trees over a certain diameter, height, whatever you want to specify,” said Fast, adding that if the Islands Trust received jurisdiction, it would be up to each local Trust committee to decide whether they adopt a bylaw and how it would be structured. 

Harris’ fellow Salt Spring trustee Laura Patrick spoke with the majority in favour of rescinding the request for the tree-cutting bylaw authority, for her part on the grounds that the process hadn’t been part of a focused plan. 

“There is a valid reason to look at what we need to do going forward,” she said, “but I think this needs to be swallowed into the strategic planning exercise for this term, and clarified as to what we hope to achieve, if anything is to be considered. Because we just sort of barrelled down this approach, without taking time to say what we really want to achieve — which did aggravate and make people who rely on forests concerned, because we weren’t clear. We can revisit it in the strategic planning exercise.” 

“I honestly don’t think that the request as it stands is going to get any action from the province,” said Lasqueti’s trustee Tim Peterson, who also chairs Salt Spring Island’s LTC. “I think if we want to think about targeted tree-cutting regulation, we need to do it in a much better thought-out manner.” 

Luckham said he supported the desire to control the impacts of development, but added, “I’m not convinced that this is the right tool; it will be an ongoing, costly, time-consuming project. We need to refine the ask.” 

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  1. I vote against rescinding the vote to get tree-cutting authority from the province. Lynda Cole, Salt Spring Island residence.

  2. I vote no. That is I am very unhappy that the Trust voted to rescind their request for tree cutting control powers.

  3. I too am extremely unhappy and angry about the Trust’s short-sighted decision to rescind its request for authority to control tree cutting on the islands. I can think of no more obvious example of preserving and protecting our islands than putting limits on tree cutting, and especially on clear cutting with all its known damaging effects on water conservation and run off, not to even mention the aesthetic devastation. Rolling over and conceding to the blatant self interest of trustees who make their livings by cutting down our forests is the most egregious example I can think of of dereliction of duty by our islands trustees. Shame on the Islands Trust!

    Gwen McDonald, March 21, 2023.


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