Environment

NAPTEP and Bowen Island

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Originally published June 30, 2015 written by Peter Frinton

Ask Bowen Islanders about NAPTEP and you will likely get either a quizzical look or allusions to diapers and sleeping aids.

In reality, NAPTEP is an acronym for Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program, a voluntary conservation incentive found only in the Islands Trust area.

Under NAPTEP, landowners may apply to permanently covenant eligible portions of their land in exchange for a 65% reduction in property taxes on those areas so protected.

Owners cannot disturb NAPTEP lands through such things as construction, vegetation removal or terrain alteration.

Since its inception ten years ago, about 25 parcels of land have  successfully entered the program, and are administered by the Islands Trust Fund.

However, it has hitherto been unavailable on Bowen Island. Due to quirks in the original drafting of the covering Provincial Act, island municipalities were not included. That was amended by order-in-council in 2012 and subsequently approved by Metro Vancouver.

But then it hit a brick wall, as the previous Bowen Council rejected its adoption here despite ‘support in principle’, for what can only be viewed as ideological resistance. The fact is, Bowen has nothing to lose by welcoming NAPTEP as a land conservation initiative. The tax shift from a property registered would average about $1 for each of Bowen’s 2200 folios.

Now it is back for review and likely adoption. Trust Area Services Director Lisa Gordon addressed Council as a delegation in late May, and answered questions on program details. She characterized NAPTEP as “difficult for landowners to get into, difficult to get out of”. Lands for inclusion must have significant ecological value, not be in the ALR or developed in any way. There are fees, assessments and species inventories plus legal surveys. Costs to the applicant can approach $10,000, and to remove land from NAPTEP at some future date would require both paying all back taxes plus receiving assent from Islands Trust and BIM (if Bowen Island Municipality chose to co-sign as a covenant holder). So- not for the faint of heart, but a nice way to rule from the grave.

Lisa Gordon suggested that Bowen Council may wish to put limits on either the value or number of parcels accepted into the program. Other islands haven’t done this (and none have been overloaded with applications). However, Bowen’s incorporated status creates a direct local tax impact, whereas other unincorporated islands come under the provincial rural tax, so the tax shift is dispersed among a much larger inventory of properties.

Still, the cost to individual taxpayers on Bowen would be a very minor peril. Compared to ecological gifting, something done at least twice on Bowen, the cost is miniscule. As well, there are no land use offsets so often associated with conservation tools, such as park dedication or other amenities in exchange for subdivision and additional dwellings.

It will be interesting to see how quickly this comes to a vote, and whether it will be unanimous. Alison Morse was against it last time around, but the optics of her opposing it now that she is again a sitting Trustee would be somewhat akin to a church minister declaring a disbelief in God.

As Lisa Gordon said in her presentation, we (Bowen) already pay for the program through our contributions to Islands Trust; we may as well take advantage of it. All administrative costs and the bulk of staff time needed accrue to the Trust.

I do hope this gets through expeditiously. It represents a truly positive and measurable benefit of being within the Islands Trust federation. Plus, it’s pretty easy for Bowen to get onboard. After all, the program is up and running, it works, and has been well received on the other islands.

It’s time to relinquish our status as the last hold-out.

– Peter Frinton

Earth Day Every Day II

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Originally posted June 17, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

A couple of sixteen-year-old sweethearts out for a late-evening walk around the lake. They had all the summer ahead of them, and no time to keep. They stopped for a long kiss on the boardwalk. Maybe it was a very long kiss, because somehow night fell, just then, and as they carried on along the trail, the forest closed around them and they were enveloped in darkness. He reached for her hand and she felt responsible – after all, this island was her home, and she should know the way back even with her eyes closed. Which they may as well have been, for all that she could see. She slowed the pace. She felt her boyfriend’s arm on one side, the springy root trail beneath her, and to her left, a small log.
Oh! Wait! The trail builders had recently put these logs here, and she was sure they were all on the uphill side of the trail! She must have led him to the wrong side of the log! Thankful for the night concealing her blush of embarrassment, she said, “Just step over this little log, here…” and she did – into mid-air. Well, the mid-air part was a fraction of a second long, before she crumpled down past roots and stones and salal, came to rest on the ground and clambered quickly to stand again – this time aware of his knee in front of her face, as he stood there on the path, confused.
“Um. Actually not that way.” He helped her back up, never laughing at her, and thankfully never noticing the scrapes on her legs that she felt swelling up as they walked, this time much more slowly, along the trail. She closed her eyes. Given the fresh opportunity to be lost in her own environment, she used her free hand to navigate, feeling about at the warm summer air, the leaves, branches, and trunks as they went by. She discovered that she recognized some of the trees. She discovered that she knew by the change in slope that they were closer to the road, and by the smell of water that they were nearing the gravel spit. She became attuned to her senses in a way to which she wasn’t accustomed, and delighted in the sound of her boyfriend’s feet on the ground, the feeling of the breeze passing between their arms, and the glimpses of light as they neared the open alder forest. She loved the smell of the forest floor.
That was me, twenty-three years ago. I remember this often, and now try to make a habit of falling – at least metaphorically – off the beaten path. After all, falling lacks purpose, so the places I find myself are so much more surprising.
Last week, walking on the south side of the island, I picked my way carefully between thigh-deep snarls of blackberries toward the parched and crumbling moss deserts of the dry hillside. Even the blackberries were drying up, their vines like desperate brittle arms, reaching out to grab my clothing. I was so focused on the area immediately around my ankles, that I came unexpectedly upon a stand of cattails – a little marsh tucked into the rocks. What? I looked around: Pines, Douglas Fir, yellowing grass, moss and bracken, some cedars approaching death as their roots sought water in the dusty ground; insects resting on the brown-stemmed flowers. And the little stand of cattail. Their roots found some hidden source of water in the fold of the bedrock.
I looked up and discovered I was so far off the trail as to have to follow my senses back through the blazing white sun. So I stood and listened. Crowned sparrows called from various perches and the wind whipped the foxgloves so that they flopped against each other now and then. The grass whispered and my feet crunched the dried plants on my way home. I felt the stinging heat of the sun. Each of these experiences was a gift, like falling off a trail on a dark night. It is a gift just to give ourselves opportunities to discover.

– Emily VanLidth de Jeude

In the Neighbourhood

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Originally posted June 3, 2015 written by Lesley Gaunt

“…and there’s always construction work bothering you in the neighbourhood…“
(Tom Waits).

Disputes between neighbours are nothing new, not in Canada, not anywhere else in the world. The libraries are full with case studies and history is replete with famous examples of warring neighbours.  The massacre of the Donnelly family, in the township of Biddulph (near London, Ontario) by an armed mob may be an extreme example as this immigrant family from Ireland was bludgeoned to death by their neighbours on February 4, 1880.
More commonly and closer to home many of us will have had occasional problems with neighbours involving noise, untidy premises, dogs, fences, trees and hedges, second-hand smoke, water issues, or trespass.
For most of these conflicts there are bylaws in municipalities that deal with these types of problems. Also on Bowen. The extensive catalogue of Bowen Island Municipality’s (B.I.M.) bylaws and policies is an interesting read and contains, amongst others, a noise control bylaw and a noise control bylaw exemption policy, a dog bylaw regulating leashes and poop pick-up, a heron nesting policy and numerous water system bylaws.  There is no shortage of regulation on Bowen Island and in all likelihood typical neighbourhood disputes can be referenced to precedence, an applicable bylaw or policy.
Of course, in most cases, it is advisable to first try talking to the neighbour that causes the problem. After all he or she may not be aware of the effect they’re having on their neighbours and talking to them may solve the problem. However, if speaking with your neighbour is not possible or if speaking has not solved the problem, there are always other options.
Usually I would not have thought about the brewing dispute between Cape on Bowen (C.O.B.) and several property owners and dock proponents at the Cape and B.I.M. as a neighbourhood issue.
I do not agree with C.O.B.’s views and more docks at Cape Roger Curtis (C.R.C.). But I get it. Mr. Ho may have painted himself into a corner.  As President of C.O.B. he is accountable for the shareholder value and to C.R.C. property owners to deliver on the terms and conditions agreed in their purchasing agreements.
On the other hand, our municipality has a mandate to uphold our community values and to protect the public interest.
C.O.B. and C.R.C. owners threaten to sue. In their perception of reality the public interest in an undisturbed shoreline doesn’t measure up to corporate and private interests in maintaining high property values. The bylaw draft is labeled unfair, prejudiced and threatening the annihilation of newcomers. No doubt, strong words, but I get it.
I believe in justice and when it comes to litigation I like to remember Mark Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” So sue if you must. Business as usual.
The matter becomes personal when we are being told that protecting public interests on Bowen Island is not neighbourly.
Mr. David Chen of CNS Law Corporation spoke on behalf of Mr. Shu Lin Dong and Ms. Zhen Wang, the respective owners of lot 17 and Lot 3 at C.R.C. Basically his clients wanted him to address two things: ”…
one is called neighbourliness and the other is simply unfairness of the proposed bylaw…” He continues: ”Throughout the discourse of this dispute, my clients Mr. Dong and Ms. Wang, have only been referred to as property owners at Cape Roger Curtis or tenure applicants. I submit that those words they annihilate a person…” Mr. Chen goes on to remind us: ”They are in fact your neighbours, they are newcomers, and they are moving into the neighbourhood of Cape Roger Curtis.”
Being patronized by one of the legal representatives of CRC property owners on our neighbourhood values is condescending. His statement is designed to shame us all into submission. It is designed to create confusion and clouds the issue at hand by personalizing it. All of a sudden I feel that I am being accused of being unfair, prejudiced and plotting the annihilation of newcomers. And so are you and so are your neighbours.  We are all being patronized and moralized. And painted in a bad light.
In my life I have moved often and lived in many foreign places including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, China and Singapore. Each move made me a newcomer. After a while I picked up some of the do’s and don’ts of that role. “Take some time to absorb the new culture”, usually served me well.
As far as Bowen Island goes, our neighbourhood values are robust. The community is resilient and respectful of the rights of others. We know who we are and we look after each other.
“It seems that often when problems arise our outlook becomes narrow“ (Dalai Lama)
There will always be differences in the neighbourhood. Solutions can be found or forced in different ways. In my experience mutual respect, kindness, honesty and genuine consideration go a long way.

– Lesley Gaunt

Earth Day Every Day

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Originally posted April 21, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

My son wants our family to stop using electricity for Earth Day – all day.

 I want to tell him that’s too difficult; I have computer work to do; so does his father. What if it’s cold and we light the wood stove? That’s surely worse than electricity consumption? And he’ll be at school most of the day – he can’t expect them to just throw the main breaker. But in his expression I don’t see enthusiasm, I see concern. Maybe fear, even. He isn’t suggesting this because it makes him happy; he’s suggesting this because his entire generation has grown up afraid. It’s an act of desperation.

 Earth Day is forty-five years old, this year. It’s only been global for twenty-five. When I was young, we thought it was about recycling, and maybe about saving trees. Those were doable. Those changes were within our means. We felt empowered by special plastic bins marked ‘paper’ and ‘cans’. It’s not like that anymore. Various surveys over the past few years have indicated that climate change is one of the biggest fears of our youth. They don’t feel empowered; they feel helpless. Our children watch hurricane after drought after tsunami after blizzard, tearing people’s lives apart; turning our beautiful world to a wasteland. They’re not fooled by our blinders. They watch unfathomably large companies exploit the land, waste and pollute the water, and leave their futures barren. They watch desperate people campaigning and protesting to stop it all, and they watch those people vilified; arrested; beaten. We offer our kids treats to soothe the pain; toys and vacations to distract them. But they can’t stick their heads in the sand as we do, while we truck our refuse away to be recycled, and feel good about driving a little less than would be convenient. We turn off the news when the climate disasters come on, and they chastise us for being so weak. Our children are not weak. They see our hypocrisy. They want us to shut off the power for the whole day.

 What if Earth Day wasn’t about cutting back? What if, instead of self-denial and negative emotion, we instead made Earth Day about abundance? I’d much rather celebrate and promote an abundance of Earth than squeeze myself into a little corner of abstinence and fear. Because you know, even if I did that, it wouldn’t exactly be easy to convince other people to join me. I want to do something that makes me feel good and moreover, that makes my children feel good.

 Let’s be extravagant about that. I’d like for my whole life to be about celebration. I do some such things, already; I help survey for forage fish eggs as part of Ramona de Graaf’s conservation work, all over our coast. It’s a relatively small act that nevertheless connects me with the beach in a very purposeful way, every few weeks.

 Connection is a big deal, I think. How can we protect the local ecosystem if we don’t understand it? We might introduce invasive species in an attempt to help out, and create ecological havoc, as has happened frequently and on quite massive scale, worldwide. But if we really connect with the ecosystem – from the animals and insects to the plants and moss and fungi, to the bacteria, soil, weather and seasons, to our own biological and emotional place in this system – imagine what we could understand, then.

 I never realized, before learning to sample for forage fish with Ramona, how populated the seemingly barren gravel is, just below the high tide line. In years of leading outdoor exploration programs, I used to head only for the logs, plant-life, and rock crevices, where I knew I could find life. I never thought about my footsteps on the beach, until I started sampling bits of it for forage fish eggs.

 Imagine if every day was an opportunity to experience our own ecosystems.

 It is.

 This year for Earth Day I’m not going to cut the power and give my husband a forced vacation day. I’m going to make a renewed effort to connect with my ecosystem – not just for the programs I lead, either. I’m going to do it for me. Every day.

 Years ago, when I had free time, I walked out every morning and photographed my surroundings. I harvested wild foods not just once in a while, but weekly. Somehow, in the meantime, I’ve allowed myself to get lost in a less connected life, mostly in an effort to keep up with the societal demands of my kids’ lives. And I’ve failed my kids, in doing so. Now they come to me pleading to just not use electricity for a day. I need to listen to those needs. This year for Earth Day, I’m hitting the main breaker on the busy life. I’m going to make time to go out every single day and connect. I’ll share some discoveries about our island ecosystem every couple of months. Watch for them! And while I’m out, I won’t be using my car, I won’t be using electricity, and I will be actively participating in my own ecosystem. Happy Earth Day!

  – Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Opposition to Woodfibre LNG: Nimbyism? Or Common Sense?

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Originally published Feb 25, 2015 written by the Bowen Island Conservancy

There are many on our island who are very strongly opposed to the proposed LNG plant at Woodfibre (WFLNG), many concerned about public safety and many concerned about the environmental pollution that will occur if this proceeds.
The company and the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) held an open house here on Bowen on January 30.  The EAO is inviting people to provide their comments/concerns on the proposal by MARCH 9, 2015.   Not much time.  Please, if you care about this issue, send in your comments.  The Minister will consider the recommendations from the EAO and will make a decision in July of this year.
So what are the reasons to oppose?  Is it nimbyism?   Definitely not.  Consider the following:
•    These LNG Tankers are some of the biggest ships in the world, the size of aircraft carriers and will be escorted by four seagoing tugs.  The increased tanker traffic (3 to 8 round trips a month, with an estimated increase to 20 to 30 round trips per month, once in full operation) will have a significant effect on the recreational and tourism industry in Howe Sound.  The losses that will occur in the tourism industry will NOT be offset by the economic benefits of an LNG plant, which is estimated to employ a maximum of 100.
•    The mandated exclusion zone that prevents other craft from being in the area when tankers pass through will affect BC ferries schedules and disrupt the lives of residents and visitors alike, as well as affect recreational boat use, including kayaks, sailboats, motor boats, tourism charters.
•    Shoreline swells from the accompanying tugs and one enormous LNG tanker travelling at 8-10 knots will affect neighbouring beaches and boats anchored in the bays.  Remember the fast ferries.
•    Howe Sound has finally been coming back to life after years as being used as a dumping ground for the various industries around the Sound. The introduction of the WFLNG plant will destroy much of the marine life in the surrounding area. The proposed process of liquefaction of the natural gas uses 3.7 million gallons of seawater an hour, heats it up by 10oC, chlorinates it and returns it, with its dead sealife, to the Sound. The EAO must impose conditions to ensure best practices are applied to cool and de-chlorinate this water when returning it to the ocean to minimize the environmental damage.
•    The plant will emit over 142,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, along with many tonnes of Sulphur and Nitrogen oxides (smog).
•    When LNG is stored in the floating storage and offloading units at the plant for any length of time, the LNG heats up and the vapour can ignite.  To prevent this, the gas may be flared off which causes a cloud of CO2 emissions and the consequent air pollution in the immediate area.  The EAO must insist on other technology, available but more expensive, that will minimize or reduce this air pollution.  Similarly, if the tankers are held up at any time, they must release LNG into the air.
•    WFLNG has declined to specify where the tankers will be refueled. If, as is most likely, this occurs while moored at the Woodfibre site, up to 4,000 tonnes (~1 Million gallons) of heavy bunker and diesel oil will be barged up the Sound for each tanker transit.
•    The EAO must refuse to issue a certificate until WFLNG has completed the TERMPOL review, the Minister of Transportation’s recommendations on LNG shipping for Howe Sound.
•    The potential for an accident or collision with a tanker is very small, but catastrophic if it were to happen. The resulting explosion would destroy the human population in the immediate area, which, if it occurred off Bowen, would include many of us. Do we want to endanger our population this way, however remote the possibility?
To read more about WFLNG and opposition to this proposal, visit http://bowenislandconservancy.org/, http://futureofhowesound.org/ or http://myseatosky.org/
Come to a public meeting to hear from Dr. Eoin Finn, PhD Phys. Chem. ,MBA Intl Economics,  at Collins Hall at 7:30 pm on Monday March 9th.  A group of residents on Bowen, “The Concerned Citizens of Bowen” have arranged this meeting.   If you wish more information about this group, call Dai Roberts  604 947 0223.
PLEASE SUBMIT your comments to the EAO before the deadline of March 9.  You may:
1.    Go to the Conservancy’s website http://bowenislandconservancy.org/  click on website page on proposed Woodfibre LNG.  Copy and paste or modify the sample letter for your use and submit it to the EAO at: http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/pcp/index.html
Or just write your own with your concerns and submit it to the EAO.
2.    Send to the EAO by FAX: 250 387 0230
3.    Mail to the EAO: PO Box 9426, Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC  V8W 9V1
You may wish to copy your letter to the following:
Jordan Sturdy, West Vancouver Sea to Sky MLA: jordan.sturdy.mla@leg.bc.ca
The Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment: ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Premier Christy Clark: premier@gov.bc.ca
John Weston, MP, West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky: john.weston.c1e@parl.gc.ca
Bowen Island Municipal Council: mayorandcouncil@bimbc.ca

– Bowen Island Conservancy

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