March 8, 2010
In response to local government’s March 5 announcement to purchase lands in the Jordan River, Sooke Potholes and Weeks Lake areas, the ELC is grateful to have played a part in one of its most important victories ever. Partnering with The Land Conservancy, the CRD has reached an agreement in principle to purchase 2,350 hectares of land from Western Forest Products for $18.8 million. The lands will be protected for recreation, conservation and watershed protection for generations to come and include over 3.5km of shoreline from the world-famous surfing beach at Jordan River to Sandcut Beach. One of the actions that contributed to this decision was the ELCs 2007 submission on behalf of the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society to the Auditor General, which argued that the provincial government had improperly released the forest lands in question for development. In a scathing report, the Auditor General concluded that government:
- made the decision without sufficient regard for the public interest;
- put greater weight on assisting the forest companys financial restructuring than on other public interests;
- put corporate interest above the public interests; and
- the Forest Company and its parent company had made significant political contributions.
The report triggered a political storm that drove public demand for protection of the South Island’s Wild Coast. A good summary of the political controversy and the Wild Coast movement is given in a Focus Magazine article. The uproar made the front page of the national and provincial newspapers and led to more than a dozen angry editorials with headlines such “Stink of corruption sticking to BC government” and “Betrayal of the Public Trust.” Click here for links to the numerous articles. While the new agreement doesn’t cover all forest lands released by the provincial government, tens of thousands of hectares of land in the area have previously been protected from development by rezoning of 300-acre minimum lots in an ELC-advocated initiative legislated last fall. The ELC has taken a number of other legal actions to advance this cause. Many thanks are due to the ELC students who have worked for the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society on this issue since May 2007. Their law school work will leave a long-term legacy: Melinda Skeels, Dana Dempster, Emma Lehrer, Michaelin Scott, Tim Thielmann, Elizabeth Anderson, Rachel Forbes, Zahra Jimale, Earl Stevenson, Jen Smith and Micah Carmody. Thanks are also due to ELC staffers, who have put in hundreds of hours of work on this legal project: Holly Pattison, Deborah Curran, Chris Tollefson, and Calvin Sandborn. Finally, thanks to the ELC Board, the Law Faculty and especially to the Tula Foundation, all of whom make ELC operations possible.
ELC stories relating to the TFL 25 Deletions on land stretching from Sooke to Jordan River:
Comments on Land Use Bylaw and Draft OCP (Nov 18/09)
ELC requests Auditor General Investigation (Oct 24/07)