Loggers and kayakers step up their campaigns

The Discovery Islands near Campbell River are becoming a focal point for two opposing sides

Tourism operators in the Discovery Islands should view logging differently, suggests the head of the B.C. Truck Loggers Association.

In a news release last week, executive director Dwight Yochim said tourism and logging operators both utilize the coast, and need to better work together.

“Instead of apologizing for a visible cutblock, ecotourism operators need to explain three things,” he says. “The trees were harvested sustainably and created jobs for local British Columbians. Second, those new trees will be left to grow for decades and then they’ll be harvested again. Third, most of the forest on and around the Discovery Islands was harvested once and now it’s beautiful, healthy second growth.”

Most tourism operators, however, don’t see it that way. Ralph Keller of Quadra Island runs a kayak tour business and heads up the Discovery Island Marine Tourism Group which contributes an estimated $22.3 million annually to the local economy.

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

The group is particularly concerned about cutblocks that spoil the view for travellers from around the world. Keller says they’re not against logging, they just want some consideration which they’re failing to get from industry and the government.

The group also has the support of the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC which also issued its own press release Wednesday.

“The viability and growth of B.C.’s tourism industry is in jeopardy, and we are dependent on the consideration and co-operation of governments and other industries using the land and marine resources,” says association president Jim DeHart of Campbell River. “We have highlighted four main issue areas that need to be addressed by the next government: land rights, tenure access and security; land and resource use planning; transportation and access; and marketing.”

The Wilderness association wants tourism to be an election issue because it’s a key component of the economy.

“Direct tourist expenditures on nature-based tourism products in B.C. is approximately $1.5 billion dollars and provides the equivalent of over 26,000 full-time jobs,” DeHart says. “Nature-based tourism is also a major driver of B.C.’s $13-billion-plus tourism industry.”

But logging is also a major economic driver in the province and the truck loggers believe the solutions lie in compromise.

“I’ve spoken to BC Timber Sales (BCTS) and they are making changes to accommodate the tourism industry,” says Yochim. “Instead of dumping the logs into the ocean and making a log boom, which would be disruptive to marine ecotourists, BCTS is lifting the wood directly onto barges. They are also doing no barging in the summer months so they won’t conflict with the kayaking season.”