Logging threatens tourism, kayaking company charges
Clearcuts would ruin island’s appeal, opponents say
Once the visual quality drops below the tourist’s acceptable level or expectation, the tourist no longer visits the area.
WILDERNESS TOURISM ASSOCIATION
While some British Columbians are busy wringing their hands over oil pipelines and tankers, tourism operators complain that clearcut logging is quietly denuding B.C.’s renowned Inside Passage — in Johnstone Strait and the Discovery Islands, north of Campbell River.
The latest battleground is Boat Bay off West Cracroft Island where a commercial kayaking company fears that imminent logging by TimberWest will “change the overall appeal of this world-class ecotourism area.”
Breanne Quesnel, owner of Spirit of the West Adventures Ltd., said she fears “very negative consequences for our business as we would be surrounded by clearcuts at our most popular campsite and prime tourism corridor.”
About 1,300 people have signed a petition opposing the clearcutting, and another 500 clients of her kayak company opposed to the logging have signed postcards.
Quesnel said she has urged TimberWest and the B.C. government without success to remove 46 hectares of planned clearcuts in Boat Bay — “a drop in the bucket” for a company with “thousands of hectares of forest to harvest” — to preserve tourism values in the area.
While TimberWest agreed to spread the planned cuts over three years instead of one to gauge into how the cuts look, “you can’t stand the trees back up” once they are felled, Quesnel argued. The island is located near Robson Bight ( Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve, a sanctuary for killer whales.
The Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C. — representing about 900 tourism “stakeholders,” including businesses, suppliers and marketing associations — has written to the North Island forest district requesting a review of provincial Visual Quality Objectives designed to reduce conflicts between tourism and forestry.
“Once the visual quality drops below the tourist’s acceptable level or expectation, the tourist no longer visits the area and the tourism revenue is lost,” writes WTA president Jim DeHart. “Those tourists will go elsewhere for the experience they seek.”
Domenico Iannidinardo, chief forester and vice-president of sustainability at TimberWest, countered that the West Cracroft clearcuts will measure about five hectares apiece compared with 25 hectares in areas where visual quality is less of an issue.
The company won’t log during the tourism season, will leave more trees near shore, and clearcuts won’t be directly visible from Quesnel’s campsite on West Cracroft, he said.
The goal of VQOs is to determine the “least noticeable” clearcuts based on the natural contours of the landscape, while replanting quickly and minimizing road building, he added.
Vivian Thomas, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources Operations, added that the government “values the economic contributions of both sectors to the regional economy” and has been working with both on visual quality issues. Thomas added that several recommendations of a forests ministry review of VQOs for the Discovery Islands are being acted upon:
• Need for logging companies to focus on esthetic design of cutblocks, including natural-shaped blocks, smaller sizes, and greater in-block tree retention.
• Consideration of cumulative visual impacts of all harvesting and road building, and allowing for adequate green-up between adjacent harvest blocks.
• Ensure foresters are adequately trained in visual resource management.
• Expanding the range of professional peer review of forest development plans before harvesting.
Thomas noted that TimberWest has held logging rights in the area since 1985, well before Spirit of the West was issued a licence of occupation under the Land Act for its kayak base camp in 2004.
B.C.’s tourism sector continues to increase at a pace of about five per cent year.
At $13.9 billion in revenue in 2013, however, it won’t come close to then-premier Gordon Campbell’s 2003 challenge to double provincial tourism revenues to $ 18 billion by 2015.
Wilderness- or nature-based tourism generates about $1.6 billion annually in business, according to the WTA.
B.C. recorded $11.6 billion in forest product exports in 2013.