GIA launches December 2006

Southern Gulf Islands

Press release, December 7, 2006
Victoria – A new group of concerned citizens from across the southern Gulf Islands has formed to support the ‘preserve and protect’ goals of the Islands Trust Act.

Announcement of the Gulf Islands Alliance launch was made at a regular meeting of the Islands Trust Council today in Victoria.
“We want to ensure the full implementation of the Islands Trust mandate to keep our fragile island ecosystems intact and our rural communities small and diverse,” said Alliance Chair, Christine Torgrimson, of Salt Spring Island.

“Our aim is to better inform ourselves and the public to support measures that counter the growing threats to our islands.”

“In the 1960s and 70s the province recognized the fragile and special nature of the islands. It wisely legislated the Islands Trust Act in 1974 to protect what it said was one of most unique and threatened environments in the world.

“Since then, the Trust area population has more than doubled. The Trust has wrestled with the forces of industry, development and tourism to try to keep the islands intact. In recent years, the province has unfortunately refused to provide the resources and legislative tools that the Trust needs to do its job thoroughly.”

Noting recent national public opinion polls placing the environment as a leading public concern, Torgrimson said “residents of the islands and beyond are receptive and ready to join us and the Trust to make sure these precious islands are not squandered.”

She pointed out that in several recent public forums, sponsored both by the Trust and by citizen groups, people from various islands discovered they share similar concerns.

“Throughout the islands, we are struggling with shortages of groundwater, illegal rental of residences for short-term vacationers, logging and tree-cutting issues, and the loss of near-shore marine life. Some islands are literally losing their residential communities as second homes and short-term vacation rentals take over their neighborhoods and housing prices escalate well beyond many islanders’ means.

“We have recognized that we can be far more effective by getting together as an inter-island force, learning from each other, finding the best solutions, and bolstering the efforts of the Trust,” Torgrimson said.

“Particularly because we live on islands, we realize that we must define and accept limits on population, tourism and use of island resources. We’re not unrealistically against all growth and development, but we will actively oppose growth that diminishes the environment and/or abuses the public good at it’s described in the Islands Trust Act.”

In recent years, various Gulf Islands have been hit hard by residential and commercial development, resource depletion and increasing tourism. These are the same issues that sparked passage of the Islands Trust Act 32 years ago. Since then provincial funding has declined to levels which now jeopardize Islands Trust ability to safeguard an ecologically rare archipelago that includes 13 major islands and more than 450 smaller islands.