I’m writing in response to the recent column by Simon Nattrass (CRD Lands Worth Protecting).
Mr. Nattrass didn’t mention that the huge commercial development eventually turned down by the CRD, came about only because the provincial Liberal government allowed Western Forest Products (WFP) to take its private forest lands out of its Tree Farm License. WFP was granted access to thousands of hectares of public Crown land for timber harvesting, in part because the company agreed to include its private lands within the forest management constraints of the Tree Farm License.
WFP was allowed to remove its private lands with no compensation whatsoever for the historical timber benefits and without consulting and ignoring requests for assistance from the local land use planning authority, the CRD. The provincial Auditor General stated, in his review of the WFP provincial decision, that it was made “without due regard for the public interest.”
In addition to making these lands vulnerable to the kind of sprawl development Mr. Nattrass rightly decries, the province has forced the CRD and its partner, The Land Conservancy of B.C., to buy back lands of key ecological and recreational significance. The province also used tax dollars to protect these lands.
Mr. Nattrass notes the upcoming debate on the CRD’s Regional Sustainability Strategy will be crucial to address urban sprawl in the Juan de Fuca area. We should not forget, however, the province got us into this mess, and has a responsibility to help us get out of it.
The Saanich Peninsula has its own challenges in addressing urban sprawl.
Ultimately, it will be informed public participation in this process that will ensure that rural, agricultural and forested landscapes are preserved, and that urban areas are kept compact to ensure the costs of taxpayer funded infrastructure and needed public transit improvements are minimized.
Gary Holman, MLA
Saanich North and the Islands