The Comox Valley Regional District board wants logging proposed for the Langley Lake area to be put on hold while the regional district and the forest licensee can work out a watershed conservation plan.
The lake provides drinking water for nearby Union Bay, and Mosaic has planned for harvesting on its private land there.
“This came as a very late surprise in the last couple of weeks,” Area A director Daniel Arbour said.
At the June 17 board meeting, directors considered resolutions to request Mosaic Forest Management to suspend harvesting activities planned for the Langley Lake watershed until 2023 and to work with the CVRD on a watershed conservation plan for the watershed, as well as have Vancouver Island communities and the province discuss how best to manage public drinking watersheds.
Arbour was responding to comments from the company in the newspaper about how the regional district, as well as the Union Bay Improvement District, had expressed no concerns about logging in the watershed. The CVRD will be taking over services such as water that UBID provides in Union Bay as of July 1.
“I would like to set the record straight,” he said. “The Union Bay Improvement District has a decades-long standing opposition to any logging in the watershed…. There has been protests in the past.”
He explained past harvesting has led to high turbidity in the drinking water. The company said it agreed not to log before the Union Bay community began operating its new water treatment system, which started a year ago.
Arbour said he had yet to meet anyone in the Union Bay area not opposed to logging in the small watershed. He also cited First Nations’ opposition in 2017.
He wanted the board to send a letter to Mosaic and engage the province around a review of private forest lands. The board passed the motions unanimously. As well, Mosaic will also be asked to make a presentation to the board at an upcoming meeting.
“We need to do more, I think, to push this issue,” CVRD chair Jesse Ketler said, referring particularly to the province’s responsibilities over watersheds. “I think the province has kind of pitted local governments against forestry companies.”
Beyond the Langley Lake area, Arbour said he and other directors want to stress this is a broader issue for the provincial government. He cites submissions local governments on Vancouver Island made to the province two years ago with recommendations to protect drinking watersheds and other ecosystem values.
“The province has to show much greater leadership on regulating the management of large-scale private forest lands on Vancouver Island. Local governments on the east side of Vancouver Island have made many specific recommendations to protect drinking watersheds and local ecosystems, and I hope the government doesn’t succumb to the private sector lobby to keep the status quo,” Arbour said in a later statement.