Vancouver Island is a land base under stress. Viewing the timeline of events on the Island through the lens of history it becomes easily recognizable that what was once Paradise is rapidly becoming Paradise Lost.
For example, at one time, Vancouver Island used to grow so much wheat that some was exported from grain elevators at Ogden Point. Now the food carrying capacity of Vancouver Island is under serious threat as residential land development swallows up arable land and what could be arable land, at a pace outstretching supply and demand.
“Vancouver Island is one such place where citizens are questioning the security of existing food supply streams. Although climate conditions and soil types allow for relatively productive agriculture, population increases and urban development are putting pressure on existing farmland. According to the Capital Region Food & Agricultural Initiative Roundtable, Vancouver island farmers produced as much as 85% of the Island’s food supply as recently as the 1950’s, while current agricultural production is estimated to supply only 5 to 10% of the Island’s food supply as of 2004. For residents, these figures are extremely worrying, especially given our relative geographic isolation from living on an island.” (1)
Lining food security up against the unreasonable and unsustainable ideology of growth-ism places residential land development at the top of the list. Then throw climate change into the mix and the vision is unsettling to the point of being a gross understatement.
“A shocking one in ten US watersheds is in a state of “stress as the nation-wide demand for water outstrips nature’s ability to provide, with this trend expected to worsen as the climate continues to warm, an alarming new study from the University of Colorado at Boulder finds.”
“…and the prognosis is not good. The lowest water flow seasons of recent years…times of great stress on rivers, streams and sectors that use their waters…are likely to become typical as climates continue to warm, a statement from the research reads.” (2)
There are two major logging companies on Vancouver Island that are either morphing into land developers or already have a real estate arm and are in the business of real estate development.
Island Timberlands has 635,000 acres of privately owned forestlands on Vancouver Island, mainland coast and Haida Gwaii. From the map below there is a small area on Haida Gwaii and a virtual dot on the mainland with the vast majority of those 635,000 acres located on Vancouver Island.
TimberWest is Western Canada’s largest privately managed forestland owner with 325,400 hectares / 804,200 acres on Vancouver Island.
Logging Companies Turn To Real Estate
Couverdon is the real estate arm of TimberWest and, as actual forestry has shrunken dramatically with mill closures, raw log exports and not many forestry jobs or forest left, the company has morphed into real estate development and, like every corporation, changed its name to protect the guilty, while fooling the unknowing general populace.
Due mainly to the E & N Rail Grant of years gone by, the vast tracts of privately owned forest company land lie to the west of the old railroad bed. The thin strip of land to the east of the railroad is subject to other smaller development schemes as if by default, with non-stop-over-development becoming the economic generator, while “value-added” died a horrible agonizing death with the onslaught of the Campbell BC Liberal government virtually shutting down the logging/sawmill industry and shipping out raw logs.
So much for local community…as resources head East to Asia.
Combined, these two forestry companies own approximately 1,439,200 acres of Vancouver Island land, and both are transforming themselves into real estate development companies and selling off their land.
If anyone doesn’t think this is frightening, they have not been paying attention.
These lands are all located within watersheds…watersheds that have been under assault first through clear-cut logging and now by the logging companies selling the land for development.
Adding to the jeopardy of removing additional ground cover, building more roads/services and further intrusion into what little is left of nature, global climate change is an undisputed scientific fact, bringing with it increased pressures on the land and all resources. With trees logged off, with no snow pack, with water run-off following extreme rainfall, does anyone seriously think watersheds and water supply will not be adversely affected? It is unimaginable to even consider over 1.4 million acres of Island land sold off for residential development plus having the water to sustain such a massive influx of people.
The Water Question
The land in question is all to the west of existing and established communities and these communities are all geographically downstream. In combination with climate change, it should be rather obvious what will happen, (even though developers within regional districts must prove sufficiency of water prior to being permitted to develop), established communities will be forced to battle the encroaching water sucking developments every miserable time-consuming step of the way.
One scheme is occurring in Area “H” of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Couverdon, the real estate arm of TimberWest, has asked the Town of Ladysmith for their lands to be incorporated within the Town. In requesting this, the Town of Ladysmith is willing to, with no veto and no vote permitted by Area “H” residents, basically grab/steal 760+ acres of land currently within the boundaries of Area “H” CVRD in exchange for the privilege of Couverdon to be incorporated into Ladysmith, while Couverdon’s “mother” company, TimberWest, hands over 200 acres of the company’s land within the Town of Ladysmith’s watershed so the Town will own all its watershed.
Commendable for the Town of Ladysmith to own its watershed? Yes…but not in this manner!
Ladysmith will have its entire watershed and Area “H” will lose 760+ acres. Couverdon arrogantly states, should Ladysmith’s watershed not produce enough water when the population of the Town more than doubles, they will dig their own wells in the Bush Creek/Bush Creek Aquifer watershed which lies a few hundred meters from the ocean.
Then, what water source will Couverdon turn to? The Cassidy Aquifer?
The over-riding question of Growth-ism (3) on our Island boils down to water. That’s it! During these tenuous times when climate change has relentlessly altered weather patterns, with the planet never experiencing anything like this during all recorded human history, will there even be enough water for the existing population, never mind doubling or tripling it? (4)
Elected Representatives Hold the Power
All regional district and municipal elected representatives who have the collective fate of entire communities in their hands should, before making any community altering decisions, first read then re-read the existing democratically formulated document affectionately referred to the Official Community Plan plus consult with community.
As with all elected representatives, Regional District Area Directors have a huge responsibility in doing the right thing by those who elected them into a position of trust.
In the meantime, I humbly suggest everyone beware of your upstream neighbour to the West who could suck your watersheds and aquifers dry and prepare now for that inevitability.
This is One Island. There are no man-made discriminatory boundaries where water is concerned. Regardless of which man-made regional district phony-baloney boundary the collective “we” and the singular “you” may reside in, water does not recognize the folly of mankind. It comes and goes as it pleases, regardless of foolish boundaries that most times don’t make one iota of common nor geographical sense.
Far too many residential developments have already placed undo stress on this Island and Her resources, especially in relation to food-producing abilities and water protection. To visualize 1.4 million acres released to more residential units is courting unimaginable disaster. Feel good “Green Spaces” within these development schemes don’t cut it! The course of wisdom would be to utilize as much land as possible in agriculture to sustain the population currently on the Island plus grow more trees while protecting watersheds, not grow residential density even more!
Elected representatives have a huge responsibility in doing right by those who elected them into a position of trust. It is therefore an advisable reminder that they listen to and consult with community. Community possesses the wisdom of “place” which should be honoured as opposed to some outside consultant stranger to the community who is only doing a job for payment and not out of respect and love of “place”.
1. The Agriculture Carrying Capacity of Vancouver Island
2. As Planet Warms US Watersheds Go Thirsty
3. Growth Is Madness! Humanity’s Greatest Challenge
4. Conserve Water or Perish, Warns UN Chief