There are six landscape units in the Discovery Islands area, three of which (Quadra LU, Thurlow LU and Texada LU) have not had a written plan developed and implemented for them. What is a “landscape unit”? Landscape units were initially developed in the late 1990s as a response to the international push to protect biodiversity. In 1999, the provincial government developed a Q&A to explain landscape units:
LANDSCAPE UNIT PLANNING QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
A. Background on Landscape Unit Planning
What are landscape units?
Landscape units are areas of land used for long-term planning of resource management activities. They are usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares in size.
What is landscape unit planning?
An important component of the forest planning system in British Columbia, landscape unit planning produces objectives that are one type of higher level plan under the Forest Practice Code of British Columbia.
How are landscape units different from the resource management zones coming out of Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs)?
Landscape units are usually smaller geographical areas than resource management zones. In areas with legal resource management zone objectives, landscape unit objectives can provide additional detail for more effective operational planning.
What are the priorities for landscape unit planning?
The current priorities for landscape unit planning are the conservation of old growth and the retention of wildlife trees.
How will other resource values be addressed?
Landscape unit objectives and strategies for other biodiversity values (e.g., maintaining younger forests) and other forest resources (e.g., recreation) may be established where ministers have approved higher level plan objectives that deal with these values.
In the absence of an approved higher level plan, objectives for other resource values may be developed in draft form. The draft objectives must be tested with the cooperation of licensees for a limited time period. Draft objectives must not delay establishment of objectives for priority biodiversity values and must not have additional timber supply impacts for licensees.
B. Purpose and Contents of the Landscape Unit Planning Guide
What is the purpose of the Guide? What does the Guide contain?
The Guide is a technical reference for staff in the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. The Guide contains Government policy direction on landscape biodiversity and consolidates all current and new policy on this subject. It includes technical procedures for carrying out analyses; preparing landscape unit objectives and strategies; and writing and establishing landscape unit objectives.
C. Conservation of Biodiversity
How will the Guide contribute to the conservation of old growth forests?
The procedures in the Guide are focused on maintaining representative areas of old growth forest across each landscape unit.
How will implementation of the Guide help British Columbia meet it’s international commitment to protect biodiversity?
The Guide is a significant step in meeting national and international commitments to protect British Columbia’s rich biodiversity heritage. It is a made in British Columbia approach to balancing environmental and economic needs, and complements the Protected Areas Strategy and the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy.
How does the Guide relate to the Biodiversity Guidebook?
The Guide draws on and includes key information in the Biodiversity Guidebook. Parts of the Biodiversity Guidebook are now outdated. Therefore, where the Guide differs from the Biodiversity Guidebook, the direction in the Guide prevails.
How does the Guide relate to the recently released Identified Wildlife Management Strategy (IWMS)?
This Guide provides the framework for landscape unit planning. Landscape unit planning and the IWMS are key initiatives for meeting the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia’s goal of conserving biological diversity.
Landscape unit planning in conjunction with other provisions in the Code (e.g., riparian management) will address habitat requirements for the majority of wildlife species. The IWMS addresses the habitat requirements of specific species considered to be at risk.
An Implementation Advisory Group has been established to advise on the implementation of both this Guide and the IWMS.
D. Impacts on the Forest Industry
Will implementing the Guide impact timber supply?
Implementing the Guide will adhere to provincial timber supply impact limits set by government. These limits, as identified in the Forest Practices Code Timber Supply Analysis, 1996 report, are 4.1% in the short term and 4.3% in the long term.
Will implementing the Guide increase forest industry costs? How will these costs be minimized?
Implementing the Guide may result in some increased costs to the forest industry. The Guide contains clear criteria for managing costs to the forest industry, including:
not locating Old Growth Management Areas over approved cutblocks;
not locating Old Growth Management Areas where main haul roads exist or are anticipated;
agency staff working closely with forest industry staff to minimize costs while maintaining biodiversity values.
Will the forest industry be compensated for loss of timber supply or increased costs associated with implementing the Guide?
There are no plans to compensate Licensees for loss of timber supply or increased operational costs which may occur in implementing this part of the Forest Practices Code. Our intent is to manage impacts so that major cost problems are avoided.
E. Impacts on the Mining and Ranching Industries
How will implementing the Guide impact the mining industry?
Implementing the Guide will not have an impact on the status of existing mineral and gas permits. Exploration and development activities are permitted in areas set aside for old growth conservation.
How will implementing the Guide impact the ranching industry? Implementing the Guide will not impact ranching activities. Range use will be permitted in areas set aside for old growth conservation but should proceed in a way that is sensitive to the old growth values in these areas (e.g. fencing and salting should not take place in these areas).
F. Stakeholder Involvement
How have stakeholders been involved in the development of the Guide?
Representatives from the major forest industry associations, the British Columbia Environmental Network and the Sierra Legal Defense Fund have reviewed and commented on key draft versions of the Guide.
How will stakeholders be involved in implementation of the Guide?
Representatives from the major forest industry associations and environmental groups have joined with Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks staff to form an Implementation Advisory Group to advise on the implementation of the Guide and the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy. This group will:
advise on the design and content of training on the Guide;
advise on the development of a strategy to monitor the implementation of the Guide;
work with senior government staff to advise on major issues with stakeholder groups which cannot be resolved locally.
Stakeholders and the public will be provided opportunity to review and comment on landscape unit plans developed using the procedures in the Guide.
G. Implementation of the Guide
How will the impacts of landscape unit planning on biodiversity and timber supply be monitored as the Guide is implemented?
A detailed provincial monitoring strategy is being developed which will include: formal semi-annual reviews; compilation of results from districts and regions; more detailed evaluation in selected districts and a quick response mechanism to deal with significant policy or technical issues.
How will government staff be trained to implement the Guide?
Training will commence in May 1999 and must precede finalisation and approval of objectives. Training will consist of separate sessions focused on the needs of statutory decision-makers, technical staff and the public. Stakeholders will be provided the opportunity to attend the training as appropriate. The Implementation Advisory Group is advising on the design and content of the training.
Approved in 2012, this plan covers Cortes Island, Read Island, Maurelle Island, East Redonda Island, West Redonda Island and several smaller islands. See map below. Islands inside the yellow line are in the Cortes Landscape Unit.
To read the plan, use the link above or download it: sunshinecoast_lu_cortes_plan_10jul2012.pdf
In the 2001 Vancouver Island Land Use Plan (still in legal effect), much of Quadra Island was identified as as a “Special Management Zone,” which implied a less intense level of logging would occur. The details were to be included in landscape level planning. Undertaking that planning was established as a “high priority” by VILUP and was to take place within 3 years. That planning never happened.
That has not prevented other agencies from referencing this non-existent plan. In 2022, the Forest Practices Board explained in an investigation report that old forest on Quadra Island is managed under the terms of the Quadra Landcape Unit.
The lack of such planning has had the effect of reducing biodiversity protection on Quadra Island. For example, the island has no designated Old Growth Management Areas or Wildlife Habitat Areas. The lack of landscape-level planning has allowed forest tenure holders on Quadra to avoid committing to practical provisions for protection of species-at-risk in their forest stewardship plans.
Instead of being subject to the higher levels of protection intended under Special Management Zone 19, Quadra Island is being logged as though it were an ordinary resource management zone.
The ministry's mapping of the non-existent Quadra Landscape Unit is below.
As of mid-2022, a Thurlow Landscape Unit plan, known to be under development, has not yet been published. The LU is part of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement and documents pertaining to the GBR are applicable in the Thurlow LU.
The Texada Landscape Unit includes Twin Island, Hernando Island, Mitlenatch Island and Savary Island, all of which are considered to be in the Discovery Islands. As of mid-2022, no Texada Island Landscape Unit plan has been published, although one is apparently in development.
Quadra Island, given Special Management Zone status back in 2000, was supposed to have landscape-level planning done as a “high priority.” Instead, successive district managers of the Campbell River office of the Ministry of Forests have avoided doing that planning. Such planning would have established legal, spatial old growth management areas (OGMAs).
Because the Campbell River district managers have neglected to create a Quadra Landscape Unit plan, management of old-growth forests is subject to the 2004 Order Establishing Provincial Non-Spatial Old Growth Objectives. Which is to say, no real provisions for managing old-growth forest on Quadra have been created. Just intentions to get around to it one day.
One of the unfortunate consequences of this untenable situation is that patches of old-growth forest in the TFL 47 portion of Quadra Island are being stripped of everything but the old trees. The result is that these “wildlife tree patches” are stripped of their ability to support biodiversity.
By comparison, Western Forest Products is required to leave all trees in such patches in TFL 39 in the Sayward Landscape Unit. Why? Because the Sayward Landscape Unit has a completed Landscape Unit plan that requires such retention.
Another unfortunate consequence is that no spatial inventory for old forest has been done for Quadra Island. While TimberWest has done some mapping of old forest, its map does not include all old forest. The Discovery Islands Forest Conservation Project is attempting to rectify that lack of reliable information using satellite imagery, drone photography and ground-truthing.
It is our intention to help create public pressure on the Ministry of Forests to complete this long-promised planning.
We include the provincial Order here for your information.
(2004) Order Establishing Provincial Non-Spatial Old Growth Objectives.pdf
The project will provide a fuller analysis of this important document as soon as possible. In the interim, we note that Appendix 3 (page 52) includes information on stand-replacing natural disturbance return intervals for all biogeoclimatic units in BC and estimates for natural levels of old forest (>250 years). In the Discovery Islands that interval is 700 years for the three predominant variants: CWHxm1, CWHxm2 and CWHdm.
The Cumulative Effects Framework has estimated that 70 percent of these forests would have been old forest in their naturally-occurring state.
To maintain a “low” risk of biodiversity loss, forest scientists have determined that old forest should not fall below 70 percent of the naturally occurring level. For the Discovery Island biogeoclimatic variants, that would mean no less than 49 percent (.70 x .70) of the forested area of the islands should be old forest.
The current forest management regime has resulted in old forest falling below 10 percent in each of CWHxm1, CWHxm2 and CWHdm.
Thus the urgent need for a paradigm shift in forest management on the Discovery Islands.
You can download this document by clicking on the icon below, or read it here.
Standards for Assessing the Condition of Forest Biodiversity under British Columbia’s Cumulative Effects Framework Sept 2020.pdf
A legally non-binding plan for forest management in the “Takeback Area” on Quadra Island created by the Quadra Island Forest Resources Committee in 1993.
Quadra Island Forest Management Plan Quadra Plan1993 QIFRC.pdf
See the official map of the latest approved Visual Quality Objectives for the Discovery Islands area
What are “Visual quality objectives”?
According to the Ministry of Forests, “BC’s reputation as an international tourism destination depends on its spectacular natural beauty. However, tourism and forestry can coexist through innovative forest-management practices. The visual resource management program has a suite of tools to support this coexistence. As well, the Forest and Range Practices Act explicitly identifies the management of scenic values. Visual quality objectives (VQO) guide forest management activities on a landscape. A poster shows examples of each VQO.”
Another way of seeing VQOs, however, is as an indicator of how concerned government and business are about revealing to the public the true extent of the degradation of nature caused by logging. The greater the number of potential witnesses, the greater the concern for hiding what’s happening (“Preservation”). The smaller the number of people that will witness BC’s war on nature, the less concerned government and industry are (“Maximum Modification”).
Click on the image to enlarge
THE 3 MAPS BELOW show the visual quality objectives determined for the Discovery Islands area by the Ministry of Forests in consultation with local stakeholders. The Discovery Islands area is bisected by 2 different natural resource districts, so there are two different sets of maps.
Quadra, Sonora, East Thurlow, West Thurlow and Hardwicke Island are located in the North Island Natural Resources District. The first map shows VQOs for those islands.
Cortes, the Redondas, Read, Maurelle, Raza and Stuart Island are all located in the Sunshine Coast Natural Resources District. The second map shows VQOs for those islands.
Note that the colours used in the legend for each Natural Resources District’s map of VQOs are different for each district.
VQOs for the North Island Natural Resources District (click image to enlarge):
VQOs for the Sunshine Coast Natural Resources District (2023):
VQOs for the Sunshine Coast Natural Resources District (previous to 2023):
This November 2021 report provides basic information about the old growth deferral process, including the different types of old-growth forest. You can download the report from the file below or read it directly on this page.
See mapping of priority old growth deferral areas on the Discovery Islands on this page.