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British Columbia Ancient Forests News
Bluffs receive high-profile focus
Regional district planning staff reports on meeting with property owners
The Powell River Peak, March 14, 2012VALUABLE PROPERTY: Friends of Stillwater Bluffs received support from the Ancient Forest Alliance, which is calling on the provincial government to form a land acquisition fund.
A campaign to protect Stillwater Bluffs south of Powell River received high-profile help from a provincial organization recently.
Jason Addy, of the Friends of Stillwater Bluffs, joined Ken Wu, co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance, at a press conference at the Sooke Potholes. The groups were calling on the BC government to form a land acquisition fund dedicated to protecting parkland.
Powell River Regional District’s Parks and Greenspace Plan identifies Stillwater Bluffs as one of the top five sites earmarked as priorities for parks acquisition. The regional district discussed the issue at its Thursday, March 8 committee-of-the-whole meeting, during which Laura Roddan, regional district planner, reported on a meeting with Island Timberlands on March 8.
Stillwater Bluffs is part of the 48-hectare District Lot 3040, owned by Island Timberlands. The company has completed a timber cruise to identify high value timber and logging may start next year or the year after.
Planning work has started and will continue over the coming months. It includes confirming road access, ground-truthing sensitive ecosystems, setting visual management objectives and considering recreational uses and community interests.
Planning work to date has confirmed that mosses and lichens, classified as herbaceous sensitive ecosystems, are on the rocky bluffs, which don’t have a high timber value.
The company’s real estate group handles all negotiations for land acquisitions. Park acquisitions are considered more valid if requested by local governments and there have been no park acquisitions negotiated with community groups.
If negotiations begin with the regional district, a confidentiality agreement would be signed and all planning activities would be suspended. Market value of the land would be determined through a property assessment based on residential use plus timber valuation.
Island Timberlands will not approve a moratorium on logging unless the regional district is in negotiations with the real estate group.
The Friends of Stillwater Bluffs has offered to pay Island Timberlands’ property taxes on the property while negotiations take place.
The committee agreed to refer the issue to the parks and greenspace plan implementation advisory committee.
Colin Palmer, board chair and Electoral Area C director, said there is no money in the system to purchase any land. However, he said the regional district should have some way of raising money for regional parks and suggested a parcel tax across the region, including in the city, should be explored. He also said the board would want to know from the parks and greenspace plan committee what other organizations or groups would be interested in raising money for Stillwater Bluffs.
The regional district has close to $300,000 in a community parks reserve. When asked about the funds, Palmer said it is not money for regional parks, because it came from subdivisions within the rural areas. “You can’t move money from an electoral function, which is where the money is, and put it into regional parks, which is a totally separate service,” he said.
When asked if the money in the community parks reserve could be used as an electoral area contribution toward a regional park, Mac Fraser, regional district chief administrative officer, said not without reviewing the terms in which it was accepted. “I believe we lack specific policy about how to use it,” he said. “In that situation, it would default to what was the statutory intention.”
Fraser said he would research the issue and bring the answer back to the committee.