Open season on Garry oaks in Comox

Dear editor,

Garry oaks in the Comox Valley are being extirpated and are at well below one per cent of their 1865 distribution. In the last three months alone the Valley has lost 30 of the 200 remaining heritage trees. This loss is not the donut wishful-thinking which councillor McKinnon would have us rejoice at. It is glazed donut crumbs on the gaping hole.

While it is heartening to read about public concern over the recent Garry oak vandalism on the cliffs below Manor Place by a misguided landowner, both the letters and reports miss some essential questions.

Why did this landowner and his arborist feel they had a legitimate right to improve the view and cut and prune out of season, and that the outcome would be inconsequential? Mr. Kanigan downplays the offence by limiting it to a failure to seek a permit, and talks of a “maximum $2,000 fine per tree.” Each mature tree is normally valued at approximately $30,000. Damage is approximately $500,000 for a maximum fine of $40,000?  With a good lawyer, that fine will become “a very acceptable cost of business.”

In its recent decisions concerning both the Berwick Garry oaks and the national heritage at Baybrook, Comox council has effectively granted wealthy heritage and environmental vandals of Comox an open social licence.  Council therefore bears full responsibility for this.

Technically speaking, we cannot divide these 20 oaks between those fallen and those that have been pruned.  Garry oaks are extremely vulnerable to fungal and insect damage if the bark is removed. Therefore the viability of all 20 trees has been effectively compromised. If there is cliff erosion, bio-engineering will cost about $50-100K. The average taxpayer will pay for that.

This lamentable event is unfortunately a normal, predictable outcome of Comox’s environmental and heritage priorities.

Loys Maingon (RPBio)

Garry Oak Restoration Group


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