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Courtnalls called to account
Egmont politician wants brothers to come clean on clear-cutting

 
Janet Steffenhagen
Vancouver Sun

Friday, December 12, 2003
Keith Thirkell, Special to the Vancouver Sun / Land co-owned by former Vancouver Canucks Russ and Geoff Courtnall is pictured across the water behind the people gathered on the government wharf in Egmont.
 

EGMONT - A local politician is calling on two former Canuck hockey players to come clean with residents of this Sunshine Coast village about their plans for clear-cut logging in a spectacular wilderness area.

John Rees of the Sunshine Coast regional district said Russ and Geoff Courtnall should reveal their intentions to a community concerned about logging that has chopped a hole in a million-dollar view that draws tourists from around the world.

"If they have no further plans for logging ... why the hell don't they come to the community and tell them that," Rees said Thursday. "Put them out of their misery."

The Courtnalls, along with Vancouver Island logger Dale Malloch and a U.S. real estate dealer, bought more than 2,400 hectares on the northern tip of the peninsula for $11 million a year ago saying they planned to develop a deluxe holiday locale for wealthy Americans.

Residents said they weren't thrilled with the idea but didn't oppose it. Now they wonder if development is still on the books or if logging is the company's only interest.

Although there has been logging in the area for many years, the chainsaws descended this week on a mountain that is central to the community. Residents fear the company intends to clear the entire mountain face.

Rees, who represents the Egmont-Pender Harbour area, said he will ask the regional district to join residents trying to stop the logging they say threatens the livelihood of those dependent on eco-tourism.

In an interview Thursday, Malloch said the community is overreacting. Although logging will continue, there is no plan currently to move further on the mountain face.

The company -- Pacific Northwoods Resources Ltd. -- also plans to develop portions of the land into a resort, a wellness centre and possibly a marina, he said. It is also heavily involved in re-planting, he added.

"People who moved here in the past 10 years don't want it to change, but it's going to change," Malloch said. "If you don't like forestry, you should move back to the big city."

He played down concerns that logging might discourage tourism, saying he has seen many developments he didn't like while visiting foreign countries but wouldn't expect those countries to make changes to satisfy him.

The oldest of the trees logged is 140 years "and I don't think that's old," he said.

Malloch suggested Egmont residents are not astute business people or they would support the Courtnalls.

"They obviously don't understand business. If they did, they would be trying to promote the Courtnalls and the good things they have done for the community."

Rees said he will ask the regional district to write protest letters to Malloch and provincial ministries dealing with forests, fish and environment. "It's not much action, but it's some action," said Rees, who attended an impromptu meeting of upset residents this week to discuss the logging.

Rees questioned the right of the Courtnalls to log.

"Because you own the land, does it give you the legal and moral right to endanger the watershed ... destroy the visual appearance of the community and have a really big economic effect on a really small community?"

The company has expressed interest in buying more land in the area, notably a waterfront section owned by the Crown. The Sechelt Indian Band says that sale won't go through without First Nations approval.

"They've met with us," Chief Garry Feschuk told residents. "But what they told us and what they are doing are two different things."

The Courtnalls could not be reached for comment.

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 Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

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