Plans to harvest timber in the Walbran Valley are part of an intensive, collaborative process.

The Commission of Resources and Environment Vancouver Island land-use planning process that took place in the early 1990s was a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder process. It resulted in the government enacting the 2000 Vancouver Island Higher Level Plan Order that achieved a hard-won balance between environment, economic and social outcomes for land use in the region.

Back in those days, I was one of the many stakeholders who sat at the planning table working toward a plan that would specify a new way of managing Vancouver Island lands and forests. I led the negotiations on behalf of small forestry-related business.

My fellow stakeholders included others such as Bill Routley, MLA for the riding that includes the Walbran Valley, and Saul Arbess, who represented the environmental non-governmental organizations. We were at it for three intense years.

The Vancouver Island land-use plan increased the area of Vancouver Island’s parks and conservation areas to more than 18 per cent and far beyond the Bruntland Report’s recommended 12 per cent. This included the expansion of the Carmanah Pacific Park to include the lower Walbran to form the new Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. In total, this amounted to the addition of 12,843 hectares of undisturbed natural forest in the Walbran.

Other critical areas were protected by the government to complete a representative system of parks across Vancouver Island as an integral part of the land-use plan. There was no mistake, but reasoned and ecologically based decisions.

It’s important to note that the Higher Level Plan Order designated 2,600 hectares along the east side of the Walbran Valley as a special management zone, which meant it was to be sensitively managed. This included the area known as “the bite.”

Specifically, this area was designated as available for harvesting but was prescribed to be managed as a focal area for old seral forest retention with emphasis on riparian areas and recreational access management. Factors such as biodiversity, wildlife, fish, recreation, water, timber and cultural heritage were listed as key considerations on how the forests in this area would be harvested. In this manner, the important values in the Upper Walbran can be managed while providing economic value and jobs.

Twenty years later, I work as a CEO representing B.C.’s coastal forest industry. B.C. is known worldwide as a leader in sustainable forest management.

More than 3.5 million hectares of B.C.’s coastal public forests are held in parks and conservancies. Undisturbed, parks such as the Carmanah-Walbran are not available for harvest.

A robust integrated planning framework is in place that addresses the many different values found across the landscape. The framework accommodates new and better information and public review requirements. First Nations are required to be consulted and accommodated.

Meanwhile, we have a coastal forest industry that is sustainable and is characterized by a mosaic of natural and managed forests distributed across the ecoregions of coastal B.C. Investments have been made and jobs created, in forestry and manufacturing, because of the unprecedented pact that secured a balance of social, environmental and economic values on Vancouver Island.

Now I see that there have been calls by some of my colleagues in the CORE process to revisit the policies that were put in place to protect areas including the Walbran.

The forest-management plans that Teal Jones is moving forward with today are exactly as provided for by the Vancouver Island land-use plan and contemplated in the CORE process. Furthermore, Teal Jones will be manufacturing the wood from the Walbran in their B.C. mill facilities while providing livelihoods to more than 1,000 people.

New developments will always arise, and the Vancouver Island land-use plan has provided a good, solid balance for sustainable forest management in our province that’s been celebrated around the world ever since. It has provided the balance envisioned. This is something we, here at home, should recognize.

It is in this context that one needs to view the expansion of the Walbran and current calls to boycott harvesting.

Rick Jeffery is president and CEO of Coast Forest Products Association. He is a professional forester and holds a bachelor of science in forestry from the University of Alberta. He has worked for 30 years in the coast forest industry and is collaborating with First Nations peoples, environmental groups and coastal communities.