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Tourism group set to battle Okisollo loggers and the provincial Liberals

Tourism operators who pump millions of dollars into the local economy are preparing a campaign to save the picturesque Okisollo Channel from becoming a clearcut eyesore.

Members of the Discovery Island Marine Tourism Group say their concerns have fallen on the deaf ears of the B.C. Liberal Government and the current logging operations will harm their industry for years.

“Gee, I guess it’s time to cut down all the trees,” said Ralph Keller, a spokesman for the group, in musing about the government’s rationale for green-lighting logging.

The tourism lobby group is not against logging, Keller stated, but are opposed to the current logging plans that will ruin magnificent viewscapes and scare away tourists. Keller operates Coast Mountain Expeditions and Discovery Islands Lodge on Quadra Island.

The tourism group is specifically concerned about two new logging operations on Sonora and Maurelle Islands, flanking Hole in the Wall – one of the most scenic areas for boaters and kayakers in the Discovery Islands. One operation is on land belonging to TimberWest while the other was contracted out by BC Timber Sales.

“The government thinks it’s 1955 and the forestry industry is still king – it’s still important, but in Campbell River we’ve lost two sawmills and the pulp and paper mill,” he said.

And as the forestry industry went into decline, Keller added, the area’s fishing lodges retooled to cater to wildlife- and eco-tourism. This was done at considerable expense, but has resulted in sustained economic growth that contributes millions of dollars annually.

“With logging we’re about a few jobs and few benefits for the local economy,” he said. “The tourism industry has grown up…yet our concerns are being ignored.”

According to Keller, in 2011, a survey was conducted of 57 tourism-related businesses that operate in and around the Discovery Islands.

The survey indicated the businesses generate approximately $22.3 million in annual revenue and employ more than 600 seasonal and full-time workers.

“There is still some salmon fishing, but this is not the larger part of the local tourism economy,” said Keller. “The Discovery Islands are the second largest wilderness tourism destination in B.C. after Tofino and the Pacific Rim.”

The group met twice with Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism, and Innovation, and thought its economic clout might interest the pro-business Liberal government. They were wrong.

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