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11th March 2022
...continued from Part 1

When asked for an audit report that shows this, the company responded via email that an internal professional biologist and “several professional foresters” had reviewed the area to provide input and adjustments, and that an “external professional biologist” confirmed that the riparian protections exceeded regulations. Mosaic did not clarify who the external biologist was or what company they are employed by.

A fact sheet distributed by Mosaic describes their logging activities in the Red Gate area.

While Sims questions whether ownership is worth the price tag, some communities like the Municipality of North Cowichan have found ways to successfully manage forests themselves, by harvesting trees from some areas to generate revenue to fund the protection of other areas. But it’s worth noting that the municipality only acquired these forests because the forestry companies that owned and logged the land stopped paying municipal taxes, The Discourse reports.

The issue of maintenance and staffing is also a valid concern. As University of British Columbia researcher Patrick Bell’s report on watershed protection in private lands held by logging companies shows, management of the Capital Regional District’s multiple watersheds requires an entire department and dozens of employees dedicated to its protection.
The report also notes that “compared to the construction of costly filtration infrastructure, proactive watershed protection is a relatively inexpensive alternative to filtration and provides myriad other benefits, such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.”

How to ensure the future of Nanaimo’s watershed

“The bottom line for me is, that land should be in the hands of Snuneymuxw,” says Manly. “Everything that I’ve done has been around making sure that they are recognized as the rightful owners of this territory, and that they should be the stewards of the land.” (Representatives from Snuneymuxw First Nation did not respond to a request for comment).
One way that can potentially happen, he argues — along with a number of prominent Indigenous leaders in Canada — is through a relatively new federal initiative seeking to establish what are known as Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs), where Indigenous governments lead in conserving ecosystems using their own laws and knowledge.
Related: What are Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas?

The recent Forest Practices Board report also calls on the province to increase involvement of First Nations.

A new strategy aimed at protecting watershed ecosystems was also announced by the province last month, with a focus on sustainable access to clean drinking water in face of climate crises like floods and droughts.

In a statement, George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, expressed an intention to work with both Indigenous Nations and local governments.
The province is also asking members of the public to offer feedback on the related discussion paper that will inform a draft watershed security strategy to be released this fall, with a final strategy to be released next year.

One example of how the province can work with Indigenous nations and local stakeholders can be found in a recent partnership between the province and Cowichan Tribes to work together to create B.C.’s first comprehensive water sustainability plan for the Koksilah watershed. Driven by concerns about the effects of hotter summers and low snowpack on water levels, coupled with increased demand from development and agriculture, the partnership is one of a handful in the province that creates a new standard for watershed-level protection.

Locally, partly in response to resistance from the community around the logging of the Red Gate swimming hole, as well as previous recommendations made to protect the Nanaimo River watershed, Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) directors Ben Geselbracht and Erin Hemmens recently passed a motion to study and identify land parcels along the river under impending
ecological threat with high potential for conservation.

“Rather than waiting for urgent public appeals to intervene reactively when important recreational and ecological sites become inaccessible and degraded respectively; we must be proactive,” stated the Notice of Motion.

The end goal is to create a Nanaimo River park system for both the sake of ecological integrity and public access to recreation along the river, says Geselbracht, which may later serve as a template for protecting other watersheds within the RDN.