Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Judge Dismisses Environmental Groups' Application over Endangered Trees

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Judge Dismisses Environmental Groups' Application over Endangered Trees

Article excerpt

Judge dismisses application over rare trees

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VANCOUVER - A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed an application by environmental groups claiming the province fails to adhere to its own laws in protecting endangered coastal Douglas fir trees.

Justice Gordon Weatherill sided with the government in ruling that the application for judicial review filed by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and ForestEthics Solutions Society was premature.

Weatherill said in a decision released Friday that the groups should have first applied to the Forest Practices Board, which conducts independent audits and investigations to determine if the province is complying with laws to protect endangered forests.

"Although the recommendations are not binding on the government, such a process is still an adequate remedy that should be sought before seeking judicial review," Weatherill said in his written ruling.

He said the government officially recognized in 2006 that coastal Douglas fir are a species at risk and created policies to balance the competing concerns of the logging industry and those pushing for environmental protection and aboriginal interests.

The issue involves interpretation of the Forest and Range Practices Act and its regulations and whether the government has a mandatory legal duty to issue so-called section 7 notices to logging companies, the judge said.

"If issued, these notices would, in effect, prevent logging operations that will impact the remaining 275 hectares of old-growth (coastal Douglas fir) in the coastal region."

The environmental groups sought judicial review of the government's failure to issue the notices to logging companies operating on Crown land on southern Vancouver Island but also the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast. However, lawyers for the Forests Ministry and the Environment Ministry argued that step is discretionary, not mandatory.

Weatherill agreed that the notices are up to the government's discretion because it is required to balance the needs of various parties as part of the complex law.

He noted that part of the act requires logging companies intending to harvest timber or construct a road on Crown land to prepare a forest stewardship plan, which must be approved by the government. …

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