L-Restoring sawmill site will contribute positively to economy, through increased salmon stocks

Dear editor,

In response to a Nov. 30 Letter to the Editor from Norm Blondel (‘Huggers’ have no regard for costs and consequences) he suggests that every time a large commercial property becomes vacant that the “huggers” want to see it turned into a park and that the old Field sawmill site will not contribute to Courtenay’s revenue in terms of tax-paying dollars.

Project Watershed has a vision to see this site re-acquired for the purposes of restoration and long-term conservation, but we certainly don’t want to see every vacant lot in the Valley turned into a park. We support residential, industrial and/or commercial usage where it makes sense, such as increased densification in the downtown core areas. However, the old sawmill site is uniquely situated in a key migration corridor for Puntledge and Tsolum river salmon stocks and, because of its artificially armoured shoreline, is an area where salmon are easily preyed upon by seals – both adults when they return to spawn and juveniles heading to the ocean. It is also situated within the floodplain of the Courtenay River, and given the predictions of increasing sea level rise due to climate change, it makes sense not to develop properties such as this one that are more likely to flood in the future.

As to the implication that we have no regard for the costs, I would argue that those that advocate for sustainable usage and protection (or in this case restoration) of natural areas understand the full cost accounting that takes into consideration the ecosystem services provided by natural capital. Providing such services through human-engineered solutions is often prohibitively expensive and requires ongoing maintenance. Yes, we will lose out on some property taxes, but a restored sawmill site will provide many ecosystem services including help with localized flooding wildlife habitat, recreational and educational opportunities, and help restore local salmon runs. These salmon runs contribute directly to our local economy. Not to mention the less tangible benefits that a restored, esthetically-pleasing site will add to our quality of life. I assume that ‘huggers’ was used in a derogatory sense, but I think many of us would be happy to be labelled tree huggers if we are going to get the kind of policy decisions that shape a sustainable relationship with the world around us.

Bill Hedrick

vice-chair

Comox Valley Project Watershed Society

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