From The Georgia Straight, Sept. 28 - Oct. 5, 2000 edition. Reprinted by permission.
Developer Fined for Salt Spring Logging
BY CHARLIE SMITH
The company at the centre of a huge logging controversy on Salt Spring Island has been fined $13,000 for damage to a local stream. Kirk Miller, chief executive officer of the Land Reserve Commission, imposed the fine on Texada Land Corporation on September 18 for violating Section 9 of the Private Land Forest Practices Regulation.
Under section 9, private forest landowners must ensure that logging doesnt destabilize or damage stream channels, banks, and gully side walls; minimizes soil erosion into streams; doesnt result in machine tracks within five metres of the edge of a stream channel, leading to sedimentation, except at stream crossings; and retains understory vegetation and noncommercial trees within five metres of the edge of the stream channel to the fullest extent possible. Millers written "notice of determination" found that Texada violated all four subsections of Section 9 in harvesting trees alongside Tuam Creek, a small nonfish-bearing stream.
The maximum fine for violating all four subsections is $65,000. "Texada knew of the requirements of the regulations at the time it authorized the harvesting of block 50, but failed to ensure that its contractor was notified to leave a buffer along Tuam Creek," Miller wrote. "While this failure directly contributed to the contraventions occurring, I am of the opinion that Texada did not knowingly intend to contravene the regulations through their harvesting operations along Tuam Creek."
Miller told the Georgia Straight that this is the first time he has imposed an administrative penalty under the law, which took effect on April 1. He declined to discuss the details of Texadas misconduct while the company still has the right of appeal to the 10-member commission.
Texada, whose directors are Robert J. MacDonald and Derek Trethewey, bought almost 5,000 hectares on the southwest portion of Salt Spring Island in 1999 from German Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. Texada is now clearcutting timber to make way for a massive real-estate development, financed in part by a $16-million mortgage from Manulife Financial Corp. Texada president Rob MacDonald did not return a call from the Straight by deadline to say if he would appeal the $13,000 fine within the three-week appeal period.
Critics on Salt Spring Island have alleged that the company is clearcut logging at 15 to 20 times the sustainable rate of harvesting, jeopardizing wildlife habitat, parkland, farmland, and tourism. According to Millers notice, timber harvesting carried out by Texadas contractor destabilized and damaged "significant portions of the stream channel and banks of Tuam Creek". In addition, Miller wrote, logging also resulted in "significant soil erosion into Tuam Creek and the scouring of approximately 100 m of the streams length".
Machine tracks were present within five metres of the stream channel at several locations, and the exposure of mineral soil within the tracks led to some sedimentation immediately downstream, the report noted. Furthermore, understory vegetation and noncommercial trees within five metres of the stream were not retained to the fullest extent possible, he wrote.
An investigation by registered professional forester Ian DeLisle stated that the commission contacted Texadas property manager, Brent Kapler, in late June to arrange for a tour of the harvesting operations. On July 17, the site visit was arranged, DeLisle wrote, and Kapler did not mention damage to a stream.
DeLisle wrote that on July 18, he reviewed a Web site created by opponents of logging, www.savesaltspring.com/, and noticed a new photograph, captioned as "trashed stream on Mt. Tuam". DeLisle also conducted an on-line news search of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper and confirmed that a controversy existed about harvesting practices on Mt. Tuam.
The same day, DeLisle wrote in his report, he contacted Kapler again, who "confirmed that there had been some problems near a stream on this site".
Texada did not report the contravention to the Land Reserve Commission, Miller wrote, and, in fact, attempted to "mitigate the appearance of Tuam Creek" through a post-harvest stream-cleaning operation to conceal any violation.
In 1999, Texada released a "code of principles", in which the company promised to use "low impact harvesting methods, and skilled operators, in order to minimize damage to the ground". In addition, the company promised: "We will meet or exceed the requirements of the Private Forest Land Practices Regulations, and be further guided by the Forest Practices Code for Crown lands."
Elsewhere in the code of principles, Texada stated: "We will evaluate the land before harvesting to ensure that we do not damage creeks and associated riparian and other ecologically sensitive habitats."
Miller wrote in his notice that there is agreement between DeLisle and Shawn Hamilton, an environmental consultant for Texada, that the impacts on the stream are of a "short-term" nature.