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British Columbia Ancient Forests News
Campaign for a $40 million per year "BC Park Acquisition Fund" Launched
The Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) calls on the BC government to establish a dedicated $40 million per year park acquisition fund, similar to those of many Regional Districts, to purchase and protect endangered ecosystems on private lands.
Ancient Forest Alliance, June 22, 2012
This week the Ancient Forest Alliance has launched a campaign, including a new petition at www.BCParkFund.com, the distribution of 50,000 new brochures (see http://www.bcparkfund.com/newsletter/June-2012-Parks-Acquisition.pdf) into key communities, and outreach to other conservation and recreation groups, calling on the BC Liberal government to establish a dedicated “BC Park Acquisition Fund” of at least $40 million per year. The fund would raise $400 million over 10 years, enabling the timely purchase of significant tracts of endangered private lands of high conservation, scenic, and recreation value to add to BC’s parks and protected areas system.
“While private land trusts are vital for conservation, they simply don’t have the capacity to quickly raise the tens of millions of dollars needed each year to protect enough endangered lands within the short time spans many areas have left to exist - only governments have such funds,” stated Ken Wu, executive director of the Victoria-based Ancient Forest Alliance (www.ancientforestalliance.org).
In years past, the BC government has designated funds for new park acquisition in the provincial budget; however, the funds have been inconsistent and simply too small.
“While $40 million might sound like a lot, let’s remember that it is only 1/1000th or 0.1% of the $40 billion provincial budget. Surely we can afford to invest 0.1% of the provincial budget to protect our endangered species and invest in BC’s scenic and recreational assets?” Wu asked.
Across British Columbia many of the most endangered ecosystems are found on private lands. These include the Coastal Douglas-fir and Dry Maritime forests on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, with their Mediterranean-like climates, twisted arbutus trees on rocky outcrops, and extremely scarce ancient groves; dry ecosystems of BC’s southern interior, including the fragrant Ponderosa Pine forests, sage-filled grasslands, and semi-arid “pocket desert”; waterfowl-filled wetlands and rich deciduous forests in the Fraser Valley and along our largest rivers; and other magnificent but endangered ecosystems threatened with encroaching developments.
These private lands are jam-packed with endangered species. They are also usually found closest to BC’s main population centers, making them highly accessible locations for environmental education and nature tourism. As such, they are potentially the highest-value additions to BC’s world-class parks and protected areas system.
Several of the most endangered old-growth forests on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast survive on the hundreds of thousands of hectares of private corporate lands owned by Island Timberlands and until recently, TimberWest, who sold their BC lands in 2011 to two public sector pension funds managed by the BC Investment Corporation (BCIMC) and the federal Public Sector Investment Management Board (PSIMB). Old-growth forests are vital for supporting endangered species, tourism, the climate, clean water and salmon, and many First Nations cultures.
Island Timberlands in particular in 2012 is aggressively moving to log many of its lands with the highest conservation and recreational values. Conservationists are calling on the company to back off from such plans, while at the same time calling on the BC government to help purchase the companies’ contentious private lands.
Earlier this week a meeting between Cortes Island residents and Island Timberlands representatives resulted in a deadlock in negotiations due to fundamental disagreements about the company’s logging plans that might start as soon as this September. See: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/earthmatters/no-negotiation-progress-island-timberlands%E2%80%99-plans-log-cortes-island-forests
Contentious old-growth and mature forests (see spectacular PHOTOS in each link) that are threatened by Island Timberlands on their private lands include:
Contentious forests on former TimberWest lands, now owned by the BCIMC and the PSIMB, include:
Park acquisition funds already exist on a smaller scale in several Regional Districts in BC, including the Capital Regional District (CRD) in the Greater Victoria region which has a Land Acquisition Fund of about $3.5 million each year. The CRD has spent over $34 million dollars since the year 2000 to purchase over 4500 hectares, including lands at Jordan River, the Sooke Hills, the Sooke Potholes, Thetis Lake, Mount Work, and Mount Maxwell on Salt Spring Island, to expand their system of Regional Parks.
“Studies have shown that for every $1 spent by the BC government on our parks system, another $9 in tourism revenues is generated in the provincial economy,” stated TJ Watt, campaigner and photographer with the AFA. “What better investment can we make than to spend a very modest sum each year to protect Beautiful British Columbia? A BC Park Acquisition Fund would be a win-win for everyone.”