It’s not surprising that forest companies cancelled their appearance at Monday’s Port Alberni city council meeting. The vitriol and threats spewing from a few members of the public angry that these companies are blocking access to the backcountry is enough to make anyone hesitate facing a crowd.
The negativity and vigilantism is also making it difficult for those backcountry enthusiasts who are trying to come to an agreement with the companies. How can any progress be made when people are threatening on social media to destroy private property, no matter how empty these boasts may be?
There was a promise when the private forest lands were set up that public access would still be permitted through Crown land. In the past few years that access has been locked away behind gates, which is an affront to many people who have been enjoying the backcountry—in some cases for generations. There may be legitimate reasons—active logging in areas, numerous thefts or acts of vandalism in others—to lock gates, but doing so without a set schedule or in some cases notice to people who end up locked behind gates is not the answer.
One company has set up a blog that lists closures and hours of operation, but gate closures have been arbitrary and contrary to posted hours—trapping individuals and families behind gates in remote areas. Others have banned all overnight camping on their property in areas that have been used for decades. All this has achieved is raising everyone’s ire.
The logging companies owe backcountry users in the Alberni Valley a conversation about access. Residents owe the companies some civility to allow that meeting to happen. Both sides need to think about solutions.
Forest companies need to face the public and tell their side of the access issue at the table, not through press releases—and definitely not with silence.
— Alberni Valley News