Killing the golden goose updated

By Briony Penn, October 2013

No moratorium on Discovery Islands logging

Last month Focus reported on Discovery Islands tourism operators’ frustration with the response from provincial ministers of tourism and forestry on three requests: that at least one of them come to the Discovery Islands and meet with the operators to see and hear their concerns first-hand; that a hold be put on the proposed viewshed logging in the three remaining unimpacted marine corridors until after the meeting; and that government strike a land-use committee of stakeholders to negotiate the demands of the different major economic interests. 

Focus requested an interview with the new minister for small business and tourism, Naomi Yamamoto, back in July for the September article, but was unable to get an interview even for October’s deadline. The Discovery Island businesses were concerned that the forest ministry has granted a timber cutting licence in one of the last three remaining corridors. Logging was poised to begin once the timber cutting restrictions had lifted.

Yamamoto’s office sent Focus the following statement from the minister: “I understand some marine tourism businesses are concerned about visual impacts from logging in the Discovery Islands area. Staff from both [the Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Ministry and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Ministry] recently met with the Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group. Senior staff from both ministries are engaging with the broader local community to ensure we understand all viewpoints. While a logging moratorium is not being considered at this time, by working with all stakeholders we are trying to find a balanced solution. I think it is important to remember that the forestry industry is required by legislation to account for the visual quality of the landscape. The province is committed to ensuring that forest license holders are meeting their legislated requirements. I am confident that with careful continued dialogue among all stakeholders we can reach a solution where tourism and logging interests can continue to co-exist in the Discovery Islands.”

Contacted for comment, ecotourism operator Ralph Keller of Read Island told Focus, “The Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group argues that visual quality objectives fall well short of stated targets in the Discovery Islands, and that prevailing standards for visual quality objectives fall short of visitor expectations. Either way, there is a serious problem in the Discovery Islands. In 2013, some Discovery Island wilderness tour companies abandoned specific routes because of excessive clear-cutting. This means a general downsizing in operations, with a corresponding reduction in employment, taxes paid, and gross economic output. Status quo forest management is hurting the environment and the local economy, here and now. Minister Yakamoto needs to come to terms with a difficult question: Does she wish to see a strong sustainable tourism sector which consistently employs hundreds of local families? Or will she support a transient logging industry which exports not only logs and jobs, but delivers marginal tax revenues to the people of BC?” 

 Briony Penn has worked part time in the marine ecotourism industry on the coast for over 20 years. Such work provides an important part of her income as other sectors that she works in—environmental education, journalism and art—decline.