Conservation group fights sale of Wildwood Ecoforest to private buyer
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Monday, November 14, 2016 6:58PM PST
The Land Conservancy of B.C. is asking a court to let it go against its own mandate and sell two of its properties – but it’s not happening without a fight.
TLC needs a Supreme Court judge to approve the sales of Maltby Lake in West Saanich and Wildwood in Nanaimo in a continuing effort to pay off nearly $8-million in debt.
But a conservationist group is trying to stop the sale of Wildwood, a 32-hectare parcel of land with trees as old as 800 years, saying it puts the forest in danger.
Merv Wilkinson, who previously owned Wildwood, devoted his life to the land and wanted it to be put to good use.
“He wanted it open to the public and he wanted it to actually be an educational opportunity for members of the public, for foresters,” said Barry Gates of the Ecoforest Institute Society, which has managed Wildwood for the last decade-and-a-half.
Wilkinson turned his back on modern forestry, using sustainable methods to harvest selected trees. Now, people come from all over the world to Wildwood to learn his method.
Gates says selling it could potentially jeopardize Wilkinson’s legacy.
“If you transfer to an individual for a third of the market value for the property itself, there’s a problem here,” he said. “The problem is that person can turn around and again resell it.”
TLC says it has every confidence that private buyer Mark Randen, whose offer has been accepted, will protect the land.
“Some specifics are no subdivision, no development. It just reinforces the OCP of Nanaimo,” said TLC spokeswoman Cathy Armstrong. “But more in detail, it gives a prescriptive both that they have to do ecoforestry, but there’s also a penalty if they do something beyond what’s called the annual allowable cut.”
The institute plans to make its own offer in court this week to buy Wildwood.
“It needs to be maintained and retained as a trust property,” said Gates. “If you transfer ownership to us, we will immediately put this in what’s called a non-beneficial trust arrangement.”
The group is hopeful a judge will accept its offer, but TLC feels a private sale is still the best way to go.
The judge is expected to decide the fate of Wildwood this week.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Louise Hartland