SUNSHINE COAST CONSERVATION AND ECOLOGY
The Sunshine Coast offers an incredible diversity of ecological life and has several climatic zones with a range of temperatures hosting varied flora and fauna. For the scholarly types there is a wonderful online resource at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Geography Faculty that outlines the species of 'conservation concern' for the province of BC.
The Sunshine Coast Conservation Association is "a volunteer association representing over thirty local conservation and community groups, plus individual members dedicated to protecting the biodiversity and integrity of our air, water, forests, and marine environments for all time." The organization encompasses the entire Sunshine Coast region, from Langdale to Lund, which includes the Sunshine Coast Forest District (SCFD).
Formed in 1996, the SCCA is made up of every active environmental group working within the SCFD, now numbered at 30+ organizations. It is an effective and thorough at raising public awareness and engaging with the political organizations on the Sunshine Coast and in Powell River. Past accomplishments include: protection of marbled murrelet habitat, lodged the first formal - and successful - complaint against a large logging company in regards to poor forestry practices, engaged in habitat protection in several key coastal areas, and participate in a number of high-profile ecological undertakings in the Sunshine Coast region. Membership is very affordable and includes a quarterly newsletter, the right to vote at the AGM or run for a Board seat, and a listing on their web site.
Key Conservation Areas/Focus on the Sunshine Coast
Howe Sound encompasses the area northeast of Gambier Island, including the industrial area of Port Mellon and Rainy River, up to Wood Fibre and Squamish and down to Britannica Beach. Over the past three decades Howe Sound has been a flashpoint for environmentalists and communities along its shores. In 1994, the issue was the chemicals coming out of the Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Mill, and its effect on the marine food chain. Many times over the limit for chemical traces in shellfish, the issue was almost singlehandedly fought by one passionate Sunshine Coast resident, musician Terry Jacks. The mill's permit allowed 80 mg of particulate matter per cubic metre of air, but HSPP was frequently operating at 300+ mg, almost four times the stated limit and the particulate matter was loaded with airborne dioxins and furans. Jacks and the resulting investigative journalism were ultimately successful after a protracted fight.
McNab Creek Burnco Gravel Mine: Already home to one of North America's largest open-pit sand and gravel mine, Lehigh International running the Construction Aggregates pit on Sechelt Band Lands, many on the Sunshine Coast articulated the view the Coast has already done its fair share of resource extraction. There are additional smaller pits up Sechelt Inlet, and a large LaFarge operation outside of Egmont on the east side of the inlet.
The Burnco Gravel Mine is proposed by Burnco Rock Products. The company proposes a 30-hectar pit with onsite crusher to generate 20 million tons of aggregate over 16 years, with just 12 operational jobs created and the opportunity would exist to apply for a further extension. The proposed site on McNab Creek where a productive and quiet estuary is home to many sub-creeks, salmon runs, and wildlife habitat. It has been the subject of a study by the Suzuki Foundation, "Sound Investment - Measuring the Return on Howe Sound's Ecosystem Assets". Significant community opposition has materialized against the project with crowded public consultation open houses with over 600 comments submitted, 96% of which were opposed. Currently, the BC Ministry of Environment has given Burnco Rock Products a 'time-out' to respond to the many comments. The end of this period arrives on January 28 of 2017.
Want to get involved on this issue? Visit http://futureofhowesound.org/ or join the https://www.facebook.com/FutureofHoweSound/ page.
Roberts Creek / Elphinstone
'Elphinstone' as it's known locally, refers to Mount Elphinstone, a key geographic feature of the lower Sunshine Coast. The broad shoulder of Elphinstone reaches the plateau of Dakota Ridge above Sechelt, and extends to the Langdale Ferry Terminal. It has its own weather system, generating higher amounts of snow that stays longer for Gibsons than the other communities on the Coast. It's an active area, home to the Sprockids Mountain Bike Park, a huge network of intricate and advanced mountain bike racing trails with many race weekends up the B & K logging road in Roberts Creek (in the dip before Cliff Gilker Park), horseback riding, mushroom harvesting and hiking. It's also part of the Sunshine Coast's timber license areas, and is the focus of a sustained effort to protect Elphinstone's last old growth natural forests, the bio-diversity, watersheds, and non-industrial land values on the lower Coast. The Elphinstone Logging Focus - or ELF - initiated and manage a campaign of great depth via http://www.loggingfocus.org/. There have been sit-ins involving both the First Nations and non-native communities.
To get involved, visit http://www.loggingfocus.org/
Sechelt Inlet, Salmon Inlet, Narrows Inlet
Sechelt is the cradle of the Shishalh Nation culture and community, but the inlets accessed via boat or float plane travel out of Porpoise Bay lead to many sensitive cultural locations for the Sechelt Nation. Pictographs, middens, winter and summer community locations all make up the deep history of the region. All builders, developers and logging companies must conduct surveys prior to beginning any work, with work stopping if archeaological artifacts are discovered. A homeowner in Porpoise Bay was recently renovating their older home at the southernmost end of Porpoise Bay and discovered artifacts; the homeowner and Sechelt Nation worked together to devise a solution of the home being built up from above the sensitive site and the site beneath left undisturbed for future study.
To learn more about the Sechelt Nation and land and environmental policies, visit http://www.shishalh.com/lands/
Pender Harbour and Area
For the past dozen years the hot issue in the Pender area has been the dock building moratorium initiated by the Sechelt Nation in partnership with the BC Provincial Government approximately a dozen years ago. Pender Harbourites agreed to observe the moratorium and looked forward to the end of the 10 year period and certainty around improvements affecting their privately owned property. Dock approvals in other areas are obtained from the BC Government; in this case the Sechelt Nation was clear that approvals had been handed out without recognition of their unceded traditional territories and decision-making powers.
The issue reached a flashpoint when the Sechelt Nation and BC Provincial Government jointly announced a new 'Pender Harbour Docks Management Plan' as a completed document. Pender residents and business owners felt they had not had an opportunity to participate in the plan's design, and there were a number of uncomfortable public meetings involving all parties in the Pender Community Hall. Property owners in the Pender Harbour area - or people considering buying waterfront - should become familiar with the details from within the plan. Community discussions are still occurring.
The Iris Griffith Field Studies & Interpretive Centre, built in 2005, is part of the Ruby Lake Lagoon Nature Reserve Society formed in April of 2002, and exists "to preserve and enhance the natural habitat and wildlife of the Ruby Lake Lagoon, to facilitate local environmental education and to assist in monitoring the ecological health of the region". The Iris Griffith Centre offers a number of community and school programs, and hosts the annual "Biodiversity Summit", a 3-day workshop to draft and implement the Biodiversity Strategy for the Sunshine Coast. The Centre also offers Nature School, where teachers are invited to move their classrooms to the Reserve for a week of field studies. The Society also runs a Docent Program, where community members can act as guides to visitors exploring the Centre and the Reserve.