Tourism Sector seeks increased logging restrictions in the Outer Discovery Islands

A $50 million a year business seeks increased logging restrictions in the Outer Discovery Islands. 

Ralph Kellar, ad hoc chair of the Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group, cites studies showing that marine tourism brings just as much money as logging into the local economy. 

Proposed Visual Quality Objectives for Maurelle, Raza and Stuart Islands. The line designates the boundary between the Campbell River (l) and Sunshine Coast Forest Districts – courtesy BC Government

The importance of Marine Tourism

“The Discovery Islands proper were identified by tourism as an area of concern and exceptionally high value. For example, in Campbell River today there are twelve, perhaps more, motorized tour companies that operate exclusively in the afore mentioned islands and those companies generate over $10 million a summer for the Campbell River economy” said Kellar, whose family operates the sea kayak company Coast Mountain Expeditions out of Read Island and the Discovery Lodge on North Quadra Island.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Some of the other members of the Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group are:

Cortes Island‘s own Misty Isles also operates in the Discovery Islands.

Read Island Old Growth – courtesy Ralph Kellar

Frustrations with Government regulation

After years of trying to educate the government about the importance of marine tourism to the local economy, and being ignored, in 2013 the Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group finally took out a full page add in the Times Colonist

“We kept seeing more and more clear cuts show up on the landscapes of the Discovery Islands, our operating area. We got tired of explaining this stuff to our customers,” said Kellar.  “Most of the timber was being exported to the Orient and we were left with the clearcuts. There was virtually no return to the local economy, except for a few logging jobs.”  

Value of Discovery Island Tourism vs Forestry

Last August, the Campbell River Business Recovery Task Force identified tourism and forestry as two of the three first dollar pillars of the city’s economy. 

They said that the top four forestry companies with headquarters in Campbell River – Western Forest Products, Interfor, Mosaic and BC Timber Sales – pay an estimated $47 million in wages and benefits every year. Their operations extend over a considerable portion of Vancouver Island as well as the Discovery Islands. There were smaller companies as well. 

“We conducted a study and ended up with a number we think is pretty realistic, maybe even a bit low, but the value of the Discovery Islands tourism, not including Campbell River, is about $50 million a year,” said Kellar. “That compares very favourably to the forest industry. Depending on the year, it would be the same size and some years even bigger.” 

Old growth cedar on Read Island – courtesy Ralph Kellar

Areas of Concern

“All of the landscapes within the Discovery Islands are important. We’ve had to exclude the Mainland Inlets because there is so much logging up there and so much value to the timber. Sadly, they are still logging old growth mostly,” said Kellar.

“We’ve identified a core area that is known to industry and government. It is basically the corridors around Maurelle Island, the northern parts of Cortes and Lewis Channel. Those are key areas because they are major corridors for tourism activities. All the yachting crowd from Vancouver and Seattle come up Lewis Channel, sometimes they go around Humphrey and Price.”

“People also come up to the Octopus Islands, which is a small group of islands between Maurelle and Quadra Island. The government and local citizens have invested something on the order of just over $6 million in that park over the last ten years – enlarging it and increasing the tourism value.”

“So when they announced there were going to be visible clearcuts just half a mile away on Maurelle Island, we let our voices be known. We phoned up the District Manager. We went on a campaign, getting as many people to write letters as we could, telling them this was a completely inappropriate thing to do.”

Maurelle Island as seen from the Octopus Islands – courtesy Ralph Keller

Affecting Change 

 The only way we can affect change and get those clearcuts diminished in size, or hopefully even eliminated is by having average people phone, or email, or write the District Manager to say ‘I live here, work here or recreate here and I value these landscapes. Or “I’m someone who cares about the environment and don’t think you should be messing around with it.”  

Kellar would like the government to raise its Visual Quality Objectives in the Outer Discovery to either “Retention” (observable clearcut areas no more than 1.5% of the landscape), or “Preservation” (no visible logged off areas).

Top photo credit: “Partial Retention” of forest (clearcuts limited to 7% of observed landscape) on Stuart Island – courtesy Ralph Keller

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