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Yellow Point Watershed in Danger!

The Yellow Point Community Forest Society

Our group was set up to support and promote the Yellow Point Ecological Corridor and protect an integral part of it, the 60 acre forest recently purchased by a numbered company controlled by Mr. Bob Shields, owner of Coastland Forest Industries.

Background

The 60 acres is an undeveloped, fully forested, pristine 80 year old second growth Coastal Douglas Fir forest. Please refer to the attached PRELIMINARY ECOLOGICAL SURVEY OF THE 60 ACRES PROPERTY January 30 and January 31, 2017 by YPCFS member Sharon Hartwell and mapping and photos of the property prepared by members of our group http://project0117.van-isl.com/. The parcel of land is private land not zoned ALR or FLR. It is rural residential and subdivision is permitted to a minimum of 5 acres.

The impetus that led to the formation of our group was the prospect that the 60 acres was about to clear cut. In December/January 2017 a Coastland employee made inquiries with a neighbour to the 60 acres about obtaining an easement for access by logging equipment. Coastland also conducted a timber cruise and the men doing the cruise stated that all fir trees down to 6 inches in diameter were included. When contacted, Coastland would not confirm or deny their intent to log.

The YPCFS has since met with the RDN Planning Staff to review Bylaws, Development Permit Areas and the Riparian Area Regulations. It has also met twice with Coastland representatives.

Besides Coastland and the numbered company, Mr. Shields also owns Island Tug and Barge http://islandtug.com/. The spokesman for the numbered company is Mr. Clint Parcher, Vice President of Coastland Fibre Supply. Mr. Parcher describes the numbered company as a group of “opportunistic entrepreneurs”. More accurately the description would be a group of opportunistic Coastland Wood Industry insiders who buy and log private land. He admits that the numbered company acquired and views the 60 acres as a chance for financial profit. Mr. Parcher has stated that no decision for the 60 acres has been made but indicated that it would most likely be logged and subdivided. He has said that since no one wants to buy a “stump farm” the land may not be clear cut completely.

We believe the numbered company intends to maximize its profit by logging the property under the guise of subdivision and either sell the land as a whole after it is logged or try to subdivide the deforested remainder into as many 5 acre lots as possible. In the meantime it will wait until public attention dies down and YPCFS loses momentum.

A member of the YPCFS made a cash offer to purchase the 60 acres for more than the numbered company’s cost however the company believes it can generate significantly more profit in other ways. To discredit the purchase offer we expect that before logging begins the numbered company will give us a chance to buy the land for a price based upon their profit projections. This will be a token gesture because that price will be unrealistically high. When we do not accept, logging will proceed and the company will claim it acted in good faith by first giving us a chance to acquire the land at fair market value.

The numbered company links its acquisition of the 60 acres to jobs at Coastland however Mr. Parcher admits that logging the forest will provide only two days’ worth of material for the mill. The profit will be divided by the numbered company and not benefit Coastland employees. While we feel intensive logging is inappropriate on this vulnerable aquifer/ecosystem, the YPCFS is not opposed to forestry and good logging practices. Even though the numbered company will try to present it that way, the YPCFS is not an anti-forest industry protest group. Our dispute is with a few individuals who are using the forest industry as a smoke screen to cover their private agenda of self-enrichment.

Aquifer protection and the Yellow Point Corridor Plan

We feel the 60 acre forest is important because it provides catch basins in the form of groundwater and surface water wetlands that feed the, at risk, Yellow Point aquifer. Community water concerns have been increasing for many years. The land is a Coastal Douglas- Fir/ Dull Oregon Grape ecosystem and home to the highest number of species at risk in BC, many of which are ranked globally as imperiled or critically imperiled.

The 60 acres is also a key component of a plan to connect Wildwood Forest with the Yellow Point Bog and Yellow Point Park. An additional 10 acre parcel on Whiting Way has been dedicated and lands to the north connecting the 60 acres to Wildwood will be linked in the future. It is hoped that a future extension can be made as far as Hemer Provincial Park. An opportunity exists to preserve a large part of Yellow Point’s Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem.

The Yellow Point Ecological Corridor is in the heart of Yellow Point and the heart of the Corridor is the 60 acres. One day the Yellow Point Ecological Corridor could be the Stanley Park of Yellow Point. This is an opportunity to create a great legacy for the future.

The YPCFS endorsed Offer to Purchase

A member of the YPCFS made a cash offer to buy the 60 acres. Only a few weeks after the numbered company obtained title to the land an YPCFS member offered to buy it back. The offer guaranteed in writing that all development of the 60 acres would be not for profit, would create no more than 3 lots covenanted to limit land clearing and the residential footprint, would dedicate approximately 1/3 of the 60 acres for parkland, and would extend ecological corridors between Long Lake Road, Yellow Point Bog, Whiting Way and Wildwood Forest.

The numbered company did not respond. We have not asked the numbered company for a donation and we do not expect them to take a financial loss. We are asking them they spare the 60 acres and forego the profit they expect to generate by logging and subdividing the land. Unfortunately they appear prepared to hold the land hostage instead.

In a recent newspaper article Mr. Parcher suggested that the YPCFS’ offer involved significant logging: “They admitted they would even have to log and clear a portion of it to develop it into a couple of lots in order to justify paying for it. I think anybody that looks at it, there might possible be a tree cut down”. This is a misleading. The only logging we anticipate involves the footprint of a few house sites and access roads. The harvesting of timber as a source of revenue to offset the purchase price plays no significant role in our plan.

“Under market value”

At the time the numbered company purchased the 60 acres its BC Assessment valuation was $942,000. Its real estate listing was $989,000. The numbered company purchased the land for $900,000. Mr. Parcher portrays it as a simple real estate investment. He says the numbered company saw it “as a good purchase of a piece of property listed under market value.” We feel this claim should be examined more carefully.

The 60 acres is zoned rural residential with subdivision possible down to a minimum of 5 acres. However the topography, wetlands and watercourses will make the creation of 5 acre lots extremely difficult and unprofitable. The only factor that tips the scale in favor of profit is logging the land first.

Regrettably land buyers who buy with the intent to log have a financial advantage over those who don’t. Anyone prepared to clear cut trees is able to outbid other buyers. It is not a level playing field when “opportunistic entrepreneurs” are in the business of buying and logging private land. When Mr. Parcher says the land was “under market value” he should admit that it was under value because the Coastland group could easily log it and cheaply transport the timber to their nearby manufacturing facility. He should also admit that because the land was private they could avoid dealing with supply chain sustainability and reforestation issues. The land could be re-sold and they could walk away. In reality the land was not under market value to ordinary buyers; it was only under market value to buyers like them.

Timber value

Obviously the main reason the numbered company will not sell the land is because they think they can generate greater return by logging and subdividing it. The YPCFS has obtained several opinions of the 60 acre’s timber value. The consensus is that the forest is not mature enough to have high value. There are some good stands on the acreage but for the most part growth is not dense. The trees are second growth Douglas fir; most are under 30cm in radius and a good deal are under19cm. Red Cedar amounts to about 5% but it is mainly situated in RAR Development Permit wetland areas.

The forest might yield approximately 100m3 per acre and based upon a net ‘loggable’ area of 40 acres the total volume of timber might be 4000m3. Based upon an average price of $108 per m3 the gross timber value might be $432,000. Less an expense for road building, logging and trucking (“stump to dump”) of 30% the net yield would be $302,400.

Most developers and foresters who have looked at the 60 acres say that clear cutting would be a very bad idea especially if a residential subdivision were to follow. The cost of cleanup and the man/equipment hours required to dispose of logging debris, remove stumps, and conduct reforestation would reduce the income significantly. On top of that the land’s residual residential value would be severely depreciated.

During the first meeting Mr. Parcher stated that his preliminary timber valuation was $750,000 gross/ $500,000 net. It is difficult for the YPCFS to verify this figure. Coastland can use small trees in their “round wood” program but it is a “value added” by-product and it does not make logging small trees profitable.

Subdivision potential

Although the 60 acres is zoned rural residential down to 5 acre lot size, actual subdivision will be very time consuming, difficult and expensive. The property is a cascading series of rocky ridges, wetlands and watercourses that run diagonally with the property lines. The Ministry of Highways’ will require the last .5 km of Whiting Way to be completed. For access from Long Lake Road, a watercourse will have to be crossed and an acceptable grade involving a massive amount of fill will have to be constructed. The south west 20 acre corner is essentially inaccessible.

Creating more than 3 lots will require a hydrogeological assessment in accordance with the Yellow Point Aquifer Protection Bylaw. There are numerous wetland Development Permit Areas on the property that will require riparian assessments and covenant setbacks. The rocky ridges will need geotechnical assessments and will generate even more covenant areas. Subdivision will require not just the dedication of road allowances but the construction of actual Highway’s standard roads. Road design, slope gradients and corner geometry will be extremely difficult to achieve and the cost will be prohibitive. Whatever may gained by subdivision will be lost by infrastructure expenses and development charges.

Coastland Wood Industries

Today's corporations want to be seen as environmentally responsible citizens, and many incorporate sustainable practices in their business operations as a means of impressing and attracting suppliers, clients and customers; maintaining that credibility becomes an important part of their public profile and customer relations. Coastland Wood Industries boasts such a profile, stating that "Sustainable management begins when we purchase our raw material and continues throughout the entire supply chain to the end customer. Our products are certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) which validates our sustainable management practices." Coastland is proud of its PEFC certification. The PEFC standard ensures that the wood materials Coastland uses are sourced from sustainably managed forests: “Sustainable management begins when we purchase our raw materials and continues throughout the entire supply chain to the end customer”.

If the PEFC standard ensures that the wood materials are sourced from sustainably managed forests, how can trees logged from the 60 acres qualify as sustainable if there is no intention to manage the forest on a long term basis? PEFC certification requires risk assessment for uncertified logs “to avoid wood from controversial sources”. The 60 acres is an endangered Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem whose wetlands feed a vulnerable, at risk, residential aquifer. The community is strongly opposed to the logging. How can timber from this land not be considered a controversial source?

Obviously a logging company does not buy a forest without having plans to log it. But why did the owner of Coastland Wood Industries use a numbered company rather than have Coastland Wood Industries purchase the land itself? There is the appearance that the numbered company is an attempt to circumvent the PEFC chain of supply guidelines. There also seems to be a conflict of interest and potential for fiscal impropriety if the owner of a PEFC company is able to direct it to buy logs from a private land logging company he also owns.

The numbered company’s acquisition of the 60 acres challenges Coastland’s stated philosophy. If Coastland Wood Industries is a company that cares about ethical business practices, forest sustainability, supply chain integrity, and community accountability it should demonstrate it in action and not just in words.

Options

For us the best option is to have the entire 60 acres become part of the Yellow Point Ecological Corridor. The worst option is to have it clear cut and subdivided into small lots. At this time we believe raising additional funds or “ponying up” whatever the numbered company wants is not a viable, ethical or realistic option. The numbered company has shown no interest in negotiating with us.

We will continue to monitor and report all development activities on the 60 acres. Several levels of government have assured us that they will rigorously monitor the property also and enforce full compliance of development regulations.

The YPCFS Proposal

We believe we have put a reasonable offer on the table. We feel the plan we endorse is a fair balance of social, environmental and economic values. We feel the numbered company should accept the purchase offer because it will cost them nothing but greatly benefit the community and the environment. It will also boost Coastland’s credibility as a committed PEFC supplier and a good corporate citizen.

This is a unique situation. A private citizen has come forward with a cash offer to preserve and sustain the Yellow Point Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem and aquifer. The 60 acre forest is a small but very important part of adjoining protected parklands. This is an extraordinary opportunity to create a great legacy. We hope everyone concerned will stand with us and help convince Mr. Parcher, Coastland Wood Industries and Mr. Shields to do the right thing.

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