Misty MacDuffee new GIA chair

Misty MacDuffee of Pender Island is the new chair of the Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA), replacing founding chair Christine Torgrimson of Salt Spring who was elected to Islands Trust in November.

Misty was elected at a December GIA board meeting on Galiano Island. She holds a bachelors degree in biology and environmental science and has been working on salmon conservation and management issues, advocating for fisheries reform for 10 years with both government and non government organizations.

Several years ago, Misty traveled around North America and abroad with a 4,000 pound cedar stump from Clayoquot Sound to raise global awareness about temperate rainforest destruction on Vancouver Island.

She was chair of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation from 1999 to 2007 and a board member of the Land Conservancy of BC.

If the Islands Trust was a ‘perfect’ institution, the Gulf Islands Alliance wouldn’t exist, she says. But, of course, it’s not. And Misty confesses to being a strong critic, once telling a CBC radio show that, “Since the Islands Trust was established in the 1970s with a mandate to ‘preserve and protect’ the Gulf Islands, the mandate has rarely been upheld.”

But she insists that for GIA to be credible and effective — to the public and Islands Trust — it must be fair, honest and positive in its criticisms and positions. And GIA takes seriously its duty to speak out freely, it has no ties to the Trust or any environmental organization, she says.

If GIA believes that any land or fore-shore across the islands is being rezoned and developed contrary to the Trust mandate, it will say so boldly, she says. “Two types of people are drawn to the Gulf Islands,” she says.

“There are those who see the islands as a beautiful, rare, fragile archipelago and feel privileged to live, travel or vacation here. They value the minimal infrastructure, rural-feel and emphasis on ecological integrity and heritage.

“The others look at these islands as a gold mine just waiting to be dug up. They buy land with the intention of development whether it’s needed or wanted. They work to change the zoning by-laws and official community plans.”

It’s ‘exhausting’ for residents to stay vigilant to the constant applications to rezone and amend, she says.

Misty was distressed last year when the decision to rezone 40 percent of Galiano was only narrowly defeated by the former Trust Council. Some trustees saw their role no differently from any other municipal politician, she says.

“But GIA applauds the trustees who voted to uphold the trust mandate.”

Christine Torgrimson welcomes her replacement.

“Misty will be a marvellous chair,” she said. “She has the experience, passion and ability to help carry GIA forward in effective and exciting new ways.

“I am proud of what GIA has built in two years. It’s a strong inter-islands organization with almost 300 members.

“We have weighed in on many issues: the Galiano forest-lands; the intent of the Trust object, with a legal opinion to support it; the need to resolve conflicts between the Private Managed Forest Land Act and the Islands Trust Act; an appeal for more public process when planning decisions affect a major portion of any island; support for improved Trust local planning services; licensing for hydro-fracturing of wells; prohibiting LNG tankers in Trust-area waters; no bridge to Gabriola; and releasing the Trust from any land-use planning restrictions imposed by the TILMA inter-provincial trade agreement.

“We have great potential to grow into a powerful citizens’ voice for preserving and protecting the Trust area.”