Q: I’m a Comox Valley resident who has spent many years tree planting, (a few for Timberwest locally) and was wondering if you know if there is any consultation is happening between the citizens/government and the logging company. I hiked up Albert Edward this summer (and talked to other hikers with same views) and am really dismayed at the amount of logging there is up to creeks and how high and steep they are logging and cutting roads, right up to park boundaries. In light of warming weather and increased rain in short periods, the amount of clearcut logging around our watershed, (or anywhere) is concerning (isn’t it?!). I just wonder if Timberwest, being a large corporation with shareholders, are allowed to do whatever it takes to maximize profit with no accountability – but at the same time have the most impact on our water quality. Do you know if there’s anything being done about this or that could be done? A citizen watchgroup specifically for Timberwest?
A: I have written about this very topic in chapter one of the Comox Valley Drinking Water Reference Guide and will provide you additional with information from that section below. In this case as it is private land, the Private Forest Managed Land Council regulation applies, specifically sections 27-29, where tree retention around streams is outlined according to the classification (ie size) of the stream. If this stream is a tributary to a drinking water source then the other acts could apply, such as, the Drinking Water Protection Act.
As for accountability, Timberwest owns over 60% of the land in the Comox Lake watershed and are elf-governed by the private forest land management council and are accountable to them. As for a citizen watchdog, to my knowledge there is no longer one that is very active in the Comox Valley. The WaterWatch Coalition was involved in the complaint filed in 2007 (see below) but the group has now very little membership and thus little capability to act as a watchdog locally.
Excerpts from the Drinking Water Reference Guide……
In 2007, BC Tap Water Alliance filed a complaint against TimberWest for a violation of the Private Managed Forest Land Act along Beech Creek, a tributary to Comox Lake. The company was initially charged and fined $35,000 due to violation of buffer retention along the creek. They appealed to the Private Managed Land Council and the charges and fine was dropped.
Located on private land, this infraction was subject to private inquiry, which left the public – and local government – unable to proceed with their concerns other than to file a complaint. This self-governing enforcement would need to be altered in order to properly protect a watershed. TimberWest is the largest landowner in BC in addition to being western Canada’s largest private land management company. The company owns approximately 327,000 hectares of land, mostly along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island.
Most water sources in the Comox Valley are located in areas that were originally owned by mining and railway interests and are now on privately held forestry land. It is a legacy of early day settlement that water management has as a part of their challenge to protecting the water source. The land belt surrounding the Esquimalt Nanaimo Railway was originally First Nations territory. In the 1860’s as increasingly more settlers come to the Island, pressures to acquire fertile farm land also increased. The concept of Aboriginal title and rights to land was largely rejected and the idea of compensation did not exist and were compensated by the setting aside of land reserves. In 1883, the British Columbia government granted the E & N Railway company two million acres/ 890,000 hectares on southeast Vancouver Island from the head of the Saanich Inlet to the Comox Valley This railway belt was considered payment for construction and operation of the rail line. Having a railway meant the ability to transport goods, natural resources, and people in order to develop and settle the area. Robert Dunsmuir, most commonly known for his title as a coal baron, became a third party in these dealings and was able to secure the contract to build the railway. This ensured access and ownership of the land as well. Upon completion of the rail line from Esquimalt to Nanaimo, the government of Canada transferred the land to E & N in 1887, which effectively privatized the railway and the surrounding land belt. This allowed for E & N to parcel off the land for resale to private landowners such as forestry companies.