In a highly confrontational move, the Ministry of Forests has altered the boundaries of the Sunshine Coast Timber Harvesting Land Base to include the forested 80% of the Chapman/Gray community watershed. This area provides water to some 20,000 of the Sunshine Coasts Regional Districts 27,000 people.
The SCRD Board is on record as wanting authority over the region ís watershed, similar to that exercised by the Capital Regional District around Victoria and the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The SCRD is currently developing a
watershed accord with the Sechelt Indian Government District to strengthen that position.
The changes, effective January 1st, are contained in the Chief Forester AAC Rationale for the Sunshine Coast Timber Supply Area (TSA). The acronym AAC refers to the allowable annual cut to be drawn from the TSA. The term is
misleading because it is in actuality the required cut.
The AAC Rationale states that a BC Forest Service moratorium on harvesting in the watershed "was lifted recently when an Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP)completed by BCFS staff and stakeholders was completed". A little
awkward, but that's how they wrote it. It states further that the IWMP process was "completed but not agreed to by all stakeholders".
It cannot be completed if it is not agreed to by all stakeholders. The terms of reference of the IWMP state: "the planning team will use consensus to reach decisions and work until consensus is attained". Without 100 percent agreement from the MoF, the Ministries of Environment, Health and Mines, Canadian Forest Products, International Forest Products, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Sechelt Indian Band and the SCRD the IWMP is not complete.
The SCRD withheld its endorsement after holding a referendum in 1998 which resulted in 87% rejection of the plan. Neither the SIB, Canfor nor Interfor endorsed the plan. There is therefore no rationale for lifting the moratorium.
The first draft of the IWMP ('94) was created by Mof and MoE staff. Public reaction at a meeting held at Rockwood Lodge was overwhelmingly negative. That generated a petition with over 2,000 signatures on it, collected over one Easter weekend. It opposed logging and mining in the watershed and called for SCRD control. The process then seemed to go into limbo. The plan was re-submitted for public comment in '96 with little more than editorial changes.
The plan was withdrawn again and re-appeared in '98, again virtually unchanged. That's when the SCRD Board initiated the referendum process.
The current reinclusion of the watersheds in the AAC is the work of MoF District Manager Greg Hemphill who recently approved one cutblock - the first one in the watershed since 1992 - and at that point arbitrarily "lifted the moratorium".
This allowed the Chief Forester to ignore the public's rejection of the IWMP and more logging and to reinclude the watersheds in the AAC based on the District Manager's new "current practice". In reference to both a contentious area on Mount Elphinstone and the SCRD Board's efforts to get community control of the Chapman/Gray watershed, "I cannot take into account the implications of land use decisions that have not been undertaken by government". Apparently, in Mr. Hemphill's and Mr. Pedersen's minds, local government does not qualify.
We are back to square one. The IWMP was initiated by government in response to twenty years of SCRD complaints about the impacts of logging and road building on the community's watersheds.
It is to be hoped that the SCRD stays the course and defends this watershed by all legal means possible, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. If another referendum is needed to assure Directors that the community is behind them, by all means hold it, and soon.