Are our leaders asleep at the switch?
I live on Vancouver Island and was raised in a small logging town called Chemainus. In our youth, the entire community had access to, and used the lakes, rivers and mountains directly behind the town, the area known as Copper Canyon. Being from Chemainus had its advantages: we swam in the clear waters of the Chemainus River, we fished Reinhart Lake and, yes, we hunted the hills for grouse and deer.
In the last few months a noticeable change has taken place in Copper Canyon and, as I am told, in similar areas across the Island. The public is being denied access. The security guard who monitored access is no longer there to wave us through; instead, there is a locked gate.
When my brother and I tried to go hunting in the Canyon in September, we discovered we were locked out. We were angry. Timber companies don’t own the lakes, rivers and crown lands beyond those gates, and they were granted huge tax concessions, through reduced stumpage fees etc., to build the logging roads they now claim as theirs alone.
A similar lock-out in Sooke, which denied public access to a beach the community had used for generations, raised such a stink when the issue hit the Times Colonist, that the signs were removed and access reinstated.
What’s going on across the Island might be more forgivable if the companies that once created so many jobs, which supported workers and families, were still investing in our communities, but they aren’t. A machine called a feller-buncher now rips through the woods and gobbles up logs, which are trucked to the ocean, loaded onto freighers and shipped elsewhere for processing.
Another example of appropriation is the ENR which stands for Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. It was granted huge tracts to run passenger service from Victoria to Courtenay in perpetuity. I know, because I was a conductor on the line. Rail service is no longer being offered, but the lands granted to run the railway are still held by corporations, now Timber West and Timberlands.
There is no more passenger service, but these lands are still held privately. And the salt on the wound is that public access to our local forest land is being denied. How about restricting access to public roads to these companies, or at least charging a fee for their running trucks on public property.