Ken Wu and Jason Addy at a press conference at the Sooke Potholes on Mar. 1.

Park acquisition fund wanted

Conservationists calling for park protection through land purchases

Different conservationist groups, at the Sooke Potholes on March 1, called on the B.C. government to form a land acquisition fund that would be dedicated to protecting park land.

Ken Wu, co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance, said the B.C. government had been negligent in protecting old-growth forests in the southern part of the province.

“One of the most important planks in a conservation platform that the B.C. Liberal government must commit to before a provincial election before 2013, is to commit to a B.C. park acquisition fund,” Wu told reporters.

The environmental groups are calling for a provincial acquisition fund of $40 million a year, over 10 years, amounting to $400 million. The fund would be used to purchase valuable private land at risk of logging and deforestation.

According to Wu, the acquisition fund could provide continued protection of the Muir Creek watershed, which is located12 km west of Sooke.

The Ancient Forest Alliance had a recent victory over the protection of  old-growth cedars in Avatar Grove, near Port Renfrew, on Feb. 16.  The provincial government protected 59.4 hectares of Crown land in the area from harvesting, which Wu called a start, but he added much more action was needed from the provincial government.

The conservationists also requested Island Timberlands, the second largest private land owner in B.C., to halt any plans for logging in contentious areas until funds can be acquired to purchase the private lands.

Joining Wu, in representation of different conservationist groups along the southern B.C. Coast, was Jason Addy, of the Friends of Stillwater Bluffs from Powell River.

Addy said the 48 hectares of private land that comprises Stillwater Bluffs has been listed as a protection priority for the Powell River Regional District. The Friends of Stillwater Bluffs is currently asking Island Timberlands for a five-year moratorium to stop future logging until the appropriate funds can be accumulated to purchase the land.

Other old-growth forests and sensitive ecosystems at risk of being logged by Island Timberlands are: Cortes Island near Campbell River,  Cathedral Grove Canyon in MacMillan Park, and Cameron Valley Firebreak and McLaughlin Ridge near Port Alberni.

Island Timberlands did not return calls by press time.